Beneath - Beneath deceit is the truth. Beneath the light is the darkness. Beneath the surface hides the unseen. Not everything is as simple as it appears to be... Beneath the most innocent demeanour may lurk a killer.
Beneath deceit is the truth.
Beneath the light is the darkness.
Beneath the surface hides the unseen.
Not everything is as simple as it appears to be...
Beneath the most innocent demeanor may lurk a killer.
"The career of being a shinobi or kunoichi may not be for all of you. It could involve death, of not only yourself but also your comrades. You could end up crippled, in mind or body and sometimes you may be faced with the greatest hardship. You could be asked to kill someone close to you, or someone close to you could betray you. It is not whether you believe you can accept it or not, but is whether you are able to accept it or not," the teacher began solemnly.
None of the pupils spoke, but instead fidgeted nervously as the gaze on the teacher fell on each of them in turn.
"All the emotional training you have received will be put to the test. We will discover whether those lessons were beneficial to you or a complete waste. We will discover if you are suitable to become a ninja or Konoha or if you have not," he continued seriously. After another look of the nervous students, he added in a more gentle tone. "Try your best, that is all we ask you to do."
"You don't have to ask us to try. Like we aren't going to do our best after all the boring lessons you put us through," a loud voice declared.
Iruka didn't know whether to look amused or annoyed, so he settled for a combination of both. "Just you wait until it is your turn, Naruto," he scolded, his gaze dropping to his roll.
A blonde haired female tapped in her desk in impatience. "The suspense is too much. Not to mention I am nearly last," she muttered to her companion. When her companion didn't speak, she waved a hand in front of her face. "Are you nervous Hinata?" she asked.
A pair of pale eyes snapped to her direction before they lowered shyly. "I s-suppose so," she answered, wringing her hands in what appeared to be a sign of anxiety.
Ino have a nod in response and turned away. Almost instantly, a pair of pale hands ceased their movement whilst her eyes narrowed marginally.
An hour later, Haruno Sakura reappeared through the door, pale green eyes flitting nervously across the room. "Ah Hyuga Hinata then," Iruka called out.
Hinata got hastily to her feet. "Ah o-okay," she answered, crossing paths with Sakura. At the very instant they passed, her lips turned up ever so slightly in a smirk, but as she crossed into the next room the smile smoothed out from her face.
"Hyuga Hinata?" a crimsoned eyes woman, Yuuhi Kurenai asked.
Hinata gave a slight nod in response, nudging the door shut behind her.
"Sit," Kurenai motioned to the chair and table.
She slid into the seat, eyes narrowing slightly as she skimmed over the sheet of paper in front of her.
"Multiple choice answers. Try to be as honest as possible," Kurenai ordered.
Question One: Which of the following, would you choose to save?
A: Your best friend whom is fatally injured.
B: Someone you dislike but are only inflicted by superficial injuries.
Her brows came slightly together as she circled the former choice, although her eyes drifting down to the bottom of the page.
"Only ten questions, yet most of the students took over ten minutes for all of it?" Hinata murmured to herself, a ghost of a smile touching her lips as a pair of crimson red eyes widened in shock.
Less then two minutes later she set down her pen. "I'm done," she answered, rubbing her arm to rid the goose bumps that were caused by the sudden stirring of wind.
"You can go then," Kurenai gestured to the door.
"Thank-you," Hinata said politely, twisting open the doorknob as she took one last look at the room, eyes locked on the closed window.
Closing the door shut behind her, she casually glanced around the silent classroom. Her eyebrows met together in a frown as she surveyed the classroom. "Maa, this is going to take a while to clean up," she said nonchalantly, striding to the to the exit, stepping over a puddle of blood.
"How is she doing?" a male voice asked.
The female replied. "By now she should have seen the her classmates covered in blood, but there hasn't been any dramatic reactions from her. If anything she looked slightly annoyed as she muttered something about taking a while to clean up," Kurenai answered, her eyes fixated on Hinata's face.
Hinata's face remained impassive, as she remained seated; the sheet lay untouched in front of her.
"She is a Hyuga isn't she? Do you think she is able to see passed the genjutsu?" Asuma asked.
"No... she doesn't have her Byakugan activated," she answered.
Asuma reached to observe the sheet that had neat circles on it. "She must really have good control over her emotions, but the answers she picked here wouldn't fit with her reaction to the genjutsu," he frowned.
"Maybe she knows it is a genjutsu. Despite the way she doesn't seem all that observant, whilst she was reading over the questions she muttered something about the time it takes to do the questions not exactly fitting in," Kurenai mentioned.
"Hmm... Been two minutes now, what part of the genjutsu should she be up to?" Asuma questioned.
Kurenai looked thoughtful for a moment. "She should be witnessing the death of her family... there ought to be some reaction from her. Even the other students all reacted in some way at this part," she remarked.
The two observed the Hyuga in silence for several minutes.
"No reaction... if anything she simply looks slightly annoyed," Kurenai muttered.
Another minute later, Hinata shifted, white eyes snapping open. She calmly took in the sight of the two jounins before she rose to her feet, exiting from the room without even glancing back at them.
"If she becomes a kunoichi..." Kurenai trailed off.
"Death would be the only thing that would stop her," Asuma finished.
The two watched through the doorway as a student spoke to Hinata who in return ducked her head and answered something in reply.
"Has she shown any advanced skills?" a low voice asked.
Iruka shook his head, looking out the window to where the students were practicing with shurikens. "No... if anything, she has gotten worse at shuriken practice. She hasn't even been able to hit any vital points. Her throws are all scattered," he answered.
"Hm," a female said, sounding unconvinced.
"There are perfectly logical reasons to her reaction to the genjutsu. She's a Hyuga. They can see through all genjutsu, and even if she didn't see through it, she obviously had suspicions to why people took so long and the reason they looked so guarded when they came out. She wasn't the only one that was suspicious as well," Iruka suggested.
"I don't think so. There is more to her than meets the eye," the other spoke, as they all watched the students depart from the training field.
"Well I don't think it is that much. Whatever control she may have over her emotions would be pretty useless if she is unable to handle weapons properly," Iruka concluded, as they stepped outside.
"She didn't even hit any of the marked vital points," Asuma noted, eyes scanning over the training dummy.
"Incorrect," a lazy voice answered, muffled by a book held in front of his face.
"What do you mean, Hatake-san?" Kurenai asked.
He gestured with his free hand to the dummy. "The dummies are only marked with the main vital points because most people can easily hit those. There are other vital points that require pinpoint accuracy, but they are more difficult to locate," Kakashi mentioned.
"She... s-she hit those points?" Iruka asked, his voice faltering.
Kakashi gave a curt nod. "This Hyuga, she is more than she seems," he murmured.
"Hinata?" a feminine voice asked.
"Yea, Kurenai-sensei?" the responder asked in question, blinking a pair of innocent white eyes.
"Do you remember back in the academy, about two years ago... everyone received emotional training and you were placed through the test?" Kurenai questioned.
Hinata tilted her head in thought, "Yea. You were the one that ran the test," she answered lightly.
"You scored the highest mark in that test," Kurenai stated.
Hinata's face scrunched up in thought as she shook her head. "You must be mistaken sensei, Iruka-sensei passed out our sheets and the highest result was scored by... I-It was Uchiha-san whom scored the highest mark," she answered slowly, a guarded look in her white eyes.
Kurenai bit her lip before she continued on, "The genjutsu was what mattered," she spoke out.
Understanding dawned on Hinata's face. "If you wanted to question about the genjutsu, why didn't you just ask that in the first place?" Hinata asked, her smile not reaching her cold eyes.
Kurenai took a step back at the steely look in Hinata's eyes. "You didn't even react to the genjutsu. I want to know... Did you see through it?" she asked.
Hinata tossed her kunai into the air, catching it before repeating the process. "Oh? I had my suspicions that there was a genjutsu, but I didn't see through it. I guess it is because I knew that it wasn't real that I wasn't affected by it. But I was quite thankful when the illusion dissolved, since I was getting worried after several minutes," she answered nonchalantly.
"I... I see," Kurenai said finally.
Hinata slide her kunai back into her kunai holster. "Let me tell you something. If anyone ever tries to pry into what isn't your business, I won't be as forgiving, even if it happens to be you... sensei," she informed, saying the last word so it didn't sound as polite.
"Be careful Ino," Asuma said warningly.
Ino glanced at him, "I'm only fighting against the Hyuga heiress. She may be a Hyuga but I should be able to defeat her pretty easily... she never was that good in the academy, nor in the previous Chuunin exams," she said lightly.
Asuma did not look so convinced. "Try to avoid using any of your mind techniques, she can see the movement of chakra and should be able to dodge it. Also try to refrain from using those illusions that you learned from Yuuhi-san," he suggested.
Ino frowned. "I understand not using any of my family techniques, but why can't I use the illusions that Kurenai-san taught me? They worked pretty well on my last opponent," she muttered as she leapt down to land opposite of Hinata.
"Because... those are only effective for people whom actually have those kinds of emotion," Asuma finished softly.
Chouji looked startled as he overheard what Asuma muttered. "Be careful, Ino," he called up.
Ino flashed a V sign at him. "I'll be fine," she said cheerfully before turning back to face her opponent. "So easy on me ne?" she asked jokingly to Hinata.
Hinata merely smiled in response.
"Hyuga Hinata versus Yamanko Ino. Begin," the jounin in charge spoke.
There was a flicker of movement as Hinata disappeared from where she stood to reappear behind Ino, moving into a spin kick. Ino parried the blow and used her weight to knock Hinata back.
Both females reached into their weapons pouch to throw shurikens that collided with a metallic clang before dropping to the ground. Ino disappeared, reappearing in a crouch in front of Hinata, surging up to an attack. Hinata sidestepped the attack, kicking lightly at Ino whom disappeared.
"Aha!" Ino called, forming a set of hand seals.
Hinata turned at the last minute, hands coming together to form a seal but she froze.
"Snap out of it Hinata!" Kiba called out, leaning over the railing.
The two kunoichis remained standing, Ino's hand remaining in the same seal whilst Hinata remained still.
Kurenai pursed her lips. "She is capable of doing that technique, but she still isn't yet able to move," she noted.
"Damn it. Why isn't she reacting to the technique?" Ino muttered to herself, releasing the technique.
A pair of white eyes snapped open almost immediately, blinking in a confused manner. "You are still standing there?" she asked, tilting her head.
Ino didn't respond but instead began the seals for another technique. Chakra gathered into Hinata's feet as she leapt away, throwing an arrangements of weapons at Ino.
Ino was forced to abandon the workings of her technique to dodge the projectiles. As a kunai shot past Ino, Hinata formed a one handed seal and the exploding tag on the kunai triggered, sending Ino staggering to one side.
"Ne Hinata? Why aren't you fighting me seriously?" Ino asked, grinning casually.
"Because," Hinata began softly, arm swinging back, elbow colliding with the person behind her. Ino winced and stepped back, her clone disappearing from where it stood. "Because I am going to win this battle as Hinata and not as the Hyuga heiress," she answered softly, forming a set of familiar hand seals.
Ino's eyes widened with recognition but she was unable to react fast enough to escape from the illusion.
A cold smile crossed across Hinata's face as she walked up to Ino, fingers hooking around her kunai before taking it out of the holster. "I have the intention to kill her. Feel free to stop me whenever you please," she spoke, eyes drifting to the jounin in charge.
The jounin looked startled for a moment before he gave a nod. "Winner ... Hyuga Hinata," he called out.
Hinata's arm dropped, returning the kunai to the holster, as the smile faded from her lips. Walking slowly and purposefully, she crossed over to the stairs and went back up on the balcony, to lean over the railing beside her team.
Ino's eyes flew open for a moment, pure horror visible before her eyes rolled to the back of her head and she collapsed to the ground. "Ino!" Chouji exclaimed before leapt over the railing to run over to his unconscious teammate.
But Hinata was no longer paying attention, her closed eyes finishing the very image of coldness.
The mask was beginning to crack... showing the true face.
The innocent demeanour was breaking... revealing a killer.
A week later, when there was the reported death of Hyuga clan leader, shock and surprise spread through Konoha as it was revealed that the seeming innocent Hinata was responsible and had fled from Konoha.
Almost no one believed that soft-spoken Hyuga Hinata had committed that crime. No one wanted to believe it.
But some did.
"It was only a matter of time before she showed her true self. She's an emotionless killer." Yamanko Ino said bitterly.
Yuuhi Kurenai looked at her in surprise. "No... she isn't. Hinata spared your life during the fight... I don't think she has fully reverted to becoming a cold blooded killer," she disagreed.
"She isn't the least bit a cold blooded killer," a youthful voice snapped.
Ino and Kurenai turned around in surprise, at the angry white eyes that were glaring at them.
"My sister isn't anything like that. She killed my Father because she overheard plans that because of her successor at the exam, they were willing to accept her and instead send me into Branch. She killed to protect me!" Hanabi spat.
"She may sound honourable to you... but a killer lurks in her and it won't be long before she snaps and kills innocent people," Ino said snidely.
"Then I hope the person she kills is you. Although I sure as hell won't call you innocent," Hanabi retorted, walking off without even glancing back.
It hurt... The inner pain. It wasn't the emotional pain. That didn't exist. When she killed her Father, she had no regrets, no pity, no sadness... those emotions did not exist to her. What hurt was the raw pain in her navel. It wasn't her skin that was damaged but her chakra system. That pain writhed and curled inside her.
The pain was like a kunai in her lung, hurting with every single movement. The constant rise and fall of her chest. The breath coming out in uneven gasps from her mouth. The chakra that was traveling through her damaged inner coils. It was like her lifeblood pumping through damaged arteries. She didn't have the skill to heal an injury of that type.
She felt no regret. If anything she felt fulfilled. Her sister would have a guaranteed seat in the Main House. Hanabi would be safe. That knowledge was enough for her. But still... she wished the pain would just stop. She supposed she was lucky. A fight with the clan leader and she only sustained a serious blow to the navel, if little else. Her Father was not so lucky. One blow to the heart and it was all over.
She gave him a quick death, although in her eyes he didn't deserve that. Oh how she wished that she could have stretched out that split second he felt pain to make it last for decades. Let him live a half-life, suffering from pain, not quite dead yet not quite alive. She wanted to give him that life, take away his precious bloodline limit and most of all let him suffer.
Despite her desires, she owed him. Not because he was her father. Hell, they may have the same blood and in no way did she feel that was a connection between them. She owed him because he was her mother's husband. Because he was a good father to her sister for most of her life. For that she gave him a quick death - only because she respected her late mother and her precious sister.
Still she took pleasure in the flash of fear that crossed his eyes as his supposedly weak daughter easily overcame his futile attacks. The moment their eyes met and locked, the only similarity being their colour... She felt pride that his eyes were burdened with emotions whilst hers were empty. So much for a Hyuga being in control of his emotions.
Expose people to death, and then you see their true character. Like her Father... he was a coward. The successor to the clan, a strong user of the Byakugan was scared of death, unlike his supposed weaker daughter. For once their positions were reversed and he was aware of that. For once she dropped the facade and forced him to face what he had created.
A chuckle escaped from her lips before her hand clutched at her stomach. If the chakra running involuntary through her inner coils felt like a kunai plunging her, that chuckle felt like that weapons mistress unleashing her ultimate attack on her.
She shouldn't stay here any longer. How long before hunter-nins and ANBU are dispatched? How long before they catch onto the faint remains of her trail? The raw pain hurt. But she knew she would suffer more should she be dragged back to Konoha.
As much as she would like to pretend that she was an emotionless kunoichi, she knew that she would feel sorrow when seeing her former team, and the only two members of her family that actually mattered to her. Neji. Hanabi. She would not want them to witness her death and live a half-life.
No! She killed her Father to spare Hanabi from her fate. She would rather die undiscovered than for her dead corpse to be displeased to the few she actually cared about. They may believe that she was a cold-blooded killer but she had some decency. That was why she had to escape.
"Did they detect us? Or could it be something else."
"Wait, where are you going?"
"He will not be pleased."
"Is that supposed to stop me?"
"Tch... They stopped."
"That girl. They must be after her."
"Konoha kunoichi. Fresh. Still has the unmarked forehead protector."
"Doesn't seem like anything interesting. Let's leave."
"Just a moment. Watch. I don't think she is a simpleton."
"She seems slightly familiar..."
"She's around your age. You should know her."
"I don't recall. Don't think I've seen that fighting style before..."
"Perhaps we should recruit her. It is rare to find her kind as a missing-nin."
"Do you know her?"
"I remember her if that is your answer."
She wanted to scream. Her inner coils hurt. Alot too. It was bothersome. Those Anbus were difficult to handle... but they were taken care off. But there were still two figures lingering back. She sank back to the ground, taking the time to recollect her breath.
Two shadows detached themselves from the trees and leapt forward.
"My, my, my, what is a little kunoichi doing out here by their lonesome?" a sly voice asked.
She chose not to answer but instead observed the two shinobis.
"What is the matter. Don't you recognize me? Didn't your dog friend-" at that she froze, knowing her was referring to Kiba, "-tell you whom healed that severe injury to your inner coils?" he asked.
She recognized him now. Kabuto. The traitor from Sound that initially pretended to be a Konoha shinobi. The one that had healed her when she fell unconscious during the battle between her cousin and Naruto. But who was the other person.
"So. What brings the Hyuga heiress out here?" Kabuto asked.
Again she didn't answer, her mind racing to find a plan. She sure as hell couldn't fight them. From what she heard, Kabuto was around the same level as Hatake, so in this condition she sure as hell wouldn't last against him. Not to mention she had to be wary of the second shinobi, the chakra that was subconsciously leaked from him was insanely high.
These two were definitely stronger than her at this state.
"What... What do you want," her voice faltered initially. Her voice sounded different now, in some way it was the same but there was a subtle difference. Strained and void of emotion. It was so different... but it was her.
The lie has been shattered.
I can't go back.
My previous life shall be no more.
That is the fact.
"Join Sound," he spoke bluntly, making no attempt to soften the question.
She trailed behind them, pale hand picking at the bandages that were under her shirt.
"You should refrain from doing that. I would prefer not having to heal you again," Kabuto advised.
The slightest of frowns appeared between her eyebrows but she remain silent.
"You never did answer me? Why did you run away from Konoha?" Kabuto asked sneakily.
She turned her head so her empty eyes met his, looking at him in the same manner a royal would look at a slave. "I see no reason why you should know," she finally spoke.
"What dark past do you have?" a sardonic voice questioned.
Her eyes narrowed in distaste but she remained silent.
"Did you get a scolding from your family? Were people telling you how weak you are? Did you little sister beat you again?" Sasuke asked scornfully.
A hint of anger flashed across her face. "As if I would run away from something so simple. I had a proper reason, unlike your pathetic one. Trying to seek power so you can seek retribution from your dearest older brother," Hinata sneered.
"I am an avenger. Konoha did not supply the power I needed, so I took it from another source," Sasuke countered smoothly.
"You were always in your brother's shadow. You followed yourbrother's footsteps and left Konoha. Except you left willingly for power. He left because there was no chance of him staying," Hinata taunted, white eyes following Sasuke's movement.
Anger darkened his face before it faded, replaced by a malicious smile. "I know why the little Hyuga left Konoha," he said in a taunting voice. Without waiting for her reaction, he continued. "There was no chance of staying for you. Although what did you do that was so bad?" he demanded.
"Sasuke-kun, you should leave the questioning to Orochimaru-sama," Kabuto said warningly.
"You killed someone didn't you?" Sasuke asked, not taking heed to Kabuto's warning.
She felt anger arise but she forced it down. Was this the right decision? Joining Sound as a missing-nin. She felt startled when Kabuto gave her that offer. She felt even more startled when she finally recognized the second person as Uchiha Sasuke. She felt startled when she didn't even hesitate and immediately agreed.
Perhaps it was because she knew she had no other path to take, except death and right now she was unwilling to die just yet. She didn't fear death like her father did, but that didn't mean she would choose death if she didn't have to.
She wondered... Why did she hesitate in telling them what her crime was? Did she fear that speaking those four words would bring her back to reality and that she would regret her decision. No. The word regret meant nothing to her. She wasn't a coward.
So she was going to speak those four words.
"I killed my father."
Once out it was as if a burden had suddenly lifted, and she was forced to face what she was done. But her feelings didn't change that much. She still felt calm. Admitting to her crime didn't make her feel worse about it, or even gleeful about it. She was just grateful that it was out.
But she definitely felt a touch of pride as she caught the surprised looks from both Kabuto and Sasuke.
She tried to imagine herself in a different viewpoint, and she supposed that even she would be shocked. The supposedly soft-voiced and timid Hyuga heiress actually killing her own father in cold blood. No one saw any reason of why she committed that crime. All they knew was that after her success of chuunin exams, her father had been found dead and she had been gone.
A look of hatred crossed over Sasuke's face. "What was your reason for killing your own family? Was it to test your power?" he snapped, before striding ahead.
Her facial features remained unchanged because she knew his questions were nottargeted at her. She had heard from her clan about the truth of the Uchiha genocide. That knowledge combined with the fact that she could read him as easily as a book. Eyes were said to be a window to the soul... and her eyes could see through windows.
"Be respectable," Kabuto murmured to her before he lengthened his pace so he was in front. Side by side with Sasuke, the two pushed at the large doors that opened inwards.
Without saying anything else, the two walked forwards into the darkness and after a brief moment of hesitation, Hinata plunged into the darkness after them. She did not activate her bloodline limit knowing it would be disrespectful and she could be viewed as a threat. There was no need to make such risks at the time being.
"What have you brought for me? Kabuto-kun? Sasuke-kun?" a voice asked silkily.
Her eyes caught the faint darker outline of both Kabuto and Sasuke kneeling down and her suspicions of the speaker were confirmed. She moved to sit down, legs tucking neatly beneath her, her hands resting neatly on her lap and her gaze cast downwards.
"A kunoichi whom wishes to join your force, Orochimaru-sama," Sasuke said respectively.
There was a crackle of fire as lamps surrounding them alighting, stealing away the darkness that shielded them. Even as she felt a pair of eyes focus directly on her, she did not look directly at her... she had no need to. Even inactivated, her family's eyes allowed her to see him.
"Ah. A Hyuga? This is quite a treat. We never had one of your kind join us. Although... I heard there was a reason why most Hyugas don't survive too long after running away from Konoha," Orochimaru said.
His words were chosen seemingly simply, his tone was innocent... yet there seemed to be a darker suggestion in his voice.
She understood... she didn't wait for him to continue, she didn't wait for his servants to speak... she didn't speak either but instead her hand slid under her fringe to smooth it back, revealing the unmarked forehead of a Hyuga main house member.
They should accept her. Opportunities like this did not come every so often. Hyugas were uncommon. Missing-nin Hyugas were rare. Missing-nin Main House Hyugas were practically non-existent. Except for her.
Sound would benefit from her. Sound would accept her.
The choice has been made.
It cannot be undone.
Cast into darkness.
No longer the sun.
"Ahh... I suppose you could be of some use indeed," Orochimaru spoke, rather pleased. "Good work Kabuto and Sasuke," he congratulated, moving his hand in a sign of dismissal.
The two stood up and gave polite nods before departing, closing the steel door behind them. Hinata, whom was about to get to her feet and depart, sank back down and waited.
"Tell me about yourself." It was an order and not a request.
Her response was automatic. "My name is Hyuga Hinata, the first daughter of the former and late clan leader Hyuga Hiashi. Former heiress to the Hyuga clan and possessor of the Byakugan and specialist in the gentle-fist style of fighting. Fourteen years old and former chuunin kunoichi of Konoha," she paused, inclining her head as she waited for him to speak.
He remained silent for a moment; the only sound was the soft crackle of the fire. Then he spoke. "Last time I checked, Hyuga Hiashi was quite alive. When did he die?" Orochimaru asked, his light question veiling the true question.
"Less than a day ago, several minutes before I discarded Konoha to become a missing-nin," Hinata answered smoothly, hiding the true answer in the same manner as he did.
"Why don't you run off for now?" Orochimaru offered.
She left the room, not even fazed by their meeting.
She remembered the day she fell into the facade. By then no one noticed the change since she was only four, and by then she was already withdrawn into herself. But one person was quick to see what she was really capable of. One person was quick to shield her from her true self.
She remained behind an innocent facade for many reasons. To pretend to be the weaker heiress so she would not have to bring out her full potential. So that way she would be the hidden protector. Because her late mother ordered her to.
Her Mother rarely gave such orders. Back then, even in her child's mind, she knew that this order was far more important than any other order she had been given.
"Do not let them know who you really are. Do not let them know what you are capable of," her mother had ordered.
She gave a small knowing smile in response and chimed. "Mother knows best. So I shall listen," she said solemnly, white eyes holding no confusion, merely acceptance.
Her Mother gave a relieved sigh and took her into her arms. "Don't let any of them know, my little sunshine. No one... especially not your Father. I don't want you to be dragged into a life that is not suited for you. Blood is not meant to stain those untainted hands of yours," she hushed.
Back then, she didn't fully understand the reason of her mother's orders but she had accepted them. It wasn't entirely that her dear mother had wanted to shield her from the true life of a true kunoichi but it was also because her mother saw what few did. Her Mother saw beneath her innocent demeanour and... Her mother saw the killer that was lurking along with her true talents.
That was why her Mother gave orders for her to never show what she was really capable off. Her Mother knew best... she knew that as long as her true talents were suppressed, the killer would be too.
Mother knows best, so Hinata followed the rare order her mother had actually given.
But there was one other order and allowed her to ignore the first.
One year later, when she was at the age of five. With the birth of her younger sister Hanabi, her physically unwell Mother spoke to her.
"Take care of your sister," her mother had spoken.
An unspoken message was passed between them. Because I am unable to.
"I will not let her die, so long I shall be alive," Hinata whispered, not sounding like her usually child like self.
A grave look crossed over her mother's face as she murmured. "Protect her if you wish to. Show your true potential if you desire to protect her."
Those were one of the last words her Mother had spoken to her, dying several days after.
She still kept to the first order, but over the years her false demeanour was beginning to wear through and at rare times her true self would be shown for a brief moment.
The mask was beginning to crack but it still held.
But the day it broke, Hinata finally disregarded the first order as the second finally came into play. She would protect Hanabi as long as she took breath into her body. She was a protector... her mother made her that. But now she was a killer... for that was what her father made her.
She made her father face what he had created. She made him listen to what she had to say.
"You ruined my life... I accepted that. But I won't let you ruin my sister's life. My mother made me a protector. You made me a killer. Only you made a mistake. Mother made me the protector of Hanabi, you made me the killer of yourself. You sealed your fate the day you decided to ruin Hanabi's life. But don't worry, I won't ruin your life too badly. Instead I will take it from you."
The confusion on her Father's face as he realised she was serious.
The shock when he discovered she was not the weak heiress she led him to believe.
The fear when he was losing against his supposed weaker daughter.
The terror right before she delivered the final blow.
That night his cold demeanour cracked revealing a coward.
That night her innocent demeanour cracked revealing a killer.
The next morning her Father's body had been discovered.
The next morning she had been found missing.
That afternoon her Father's body had been examine by experts.
That afternoon the chakra in his heart was identified as hers.
That night she had been publicly identified as the killer.
That night she had officially become a missing nin.
The next day he was buried.
The next day she joined Sound.
Two Hyugas. Father and Daughter.
Two differences. Dead and Alive.
Mother knew best.
She made a protector.
Father was a fool.
He created a killer.
"Are you just going to let her join without marking her?" Sasuke demanded, pacing impatiently on the spot.
Orochimaru raised his eyebrows in response. "Are you questioning my choice?" he asked smoothly.
Anger flashed across Sasuke's face before he forced it down, knowing better to show his rage in front of him. "She can not be trusted. I didn't know her that well but that Hyuga would be the last person from the Rookie Nine to join Sound. She was weak, both physically and mentally. It is beyond me she suddenly decided to and succeeding in miraculously killing her father yet the next week she was unable to hold her end against a battle with me," Sasuke insisted.
"People don't always show their true motives and their true selves," Orochimaru answered, eyes gaining a knowing look beneath his eyelashes. "Give them time and they will show the truth. Give her time to adjust, let her trust us, don't give her any reason to keep her guard up and perhaps we shall see what she is truly capable of."
She did not like it here. It was cramped and dark, unlike Konoha. But she didn't expect better, not after committing that crime. Konoha would not accept it anymore; her only fate was death or Sound. So she chose the latter despise how much she disliked it.
At least this way, she still had a chance of becoming a protector. Not a very good one since she was days away from her sister and she didn't know if she was in danger. But as long as she took breath into her body, she would be a protector. Should Sound invade Konoha, should she still be alive when they do those, she would protect her sister. Duty came first and because of that she continued to live.
In a way with her leaving, she couldn't be protecting Hanabi from everything but now there would be others to guard her. Her cousin would take care of her sister, he would feel obliged to. Also now Hanabi was the sole successor to the clan, at the meek age of nine. She would be protected by the Branch and even the Main house.
The continuation of the pure blood of the main house depended on Hanabi but she was far too young now, so they would have to protect her. Now she was safer that she ever was before.
The only thing she could do now was guard Hanabi from Sound and hope that would be enough.
"No," was the direct order.
Confusion showed in white eyes as he spoke, "Hanabi, but-"
There was a loud crack as the metal frame of the ornamental fan hit against the table. "You forget your place, Neji," Hanabi informed, white eyes blazing.
A look of dismay crossed his face before he sunk to the ground, one leg tucked directly underneath him whilst his other foot was beside his knee. "Beg your pardon, Hanabi-sama," he corrected himself.
"Tell me. What do you plan to do if I give you permission to leave Konoha to search for Onee-... Hinata?" Hanabi caught herself on the last couple words and corrected herself.
"Appeal to the Godaime Hokage, Hanabi-sama," Neji answered.
"Suppose what after? Even if you happened to find Hinata, and you brought her back...What next?" without waiting for him to answer she continued, "She would die. She wouldn't be forgiven after the sin she committed," Hanabi sneered.
"I am aware of that... but-"
"Move," a harsh voice ordered.
Her eyes drifting to evaluate the speaker. More muscles than brain.
"Ah. A new wench to Sound. Probably only made her in by her looks," he sneered.
"Leave her alone Ranji," another voice called out in exasperation.
"Stay in your own business. I have to make sure this newcomer knows who is in charge," Ranji scowled.
"Obviously not you," she drawled, covering a yawn.
He clenched his fist. "I'd watch your mouth if I were you. I'd like you know that I was once a shinobi of stone but I killed my Jounin level comrades to get here," he threatened.
"Oh?" Hinata echoed.
"Hyuga," a voice interrupted roughly.
The small group around them began murmuring in anticipation.
"Hyuga? The noble clan of Konoha?"
"She's a Hyuga."
Her lips twitched into a smirk. Now they knew who she was, a pure blooded Hyuga. It was better to destroy flowers before they bloomed. It was better for them to know their place to begin with.
Thought she would still obey her mother's rule. She would not let them know what she was really capable of but she would at least give them a hint and hope their imagination would do the rest.
Remaining in her old facade would not serve her well here. Here the weak get crushed and the strong live yet another day. She would not be the former, but rather the latter.
She turned her head slightly to look directly at the new speaker. "What do you want Uchiha...-san?" she questioned.
His gaze slid passed her and moved to the by standers. "Shouldn't you be doing something else?" his glare deepened at the sight of them. As they left, his attention shifted back to her.
A look of impatience crossed her face as she waited for him to speak.
"Kabuto had to go elsewhere so he asked me to give you this," at that statement, his hand came out of his pockets and he held out a forehead protector to her.
She accepted it automatically, turning it over to observe the unfamiliar symbol on it. She placed the forehead protector into her pocket to free up her hands as she untied her old one.
Considering it for a moment, she held it up, "What do I do with this?... Scratch a line through it?" she questioned.
His scowl deepened at the question. "No. You only have a line through it to show that you are a missing-nin. However Orochimaru doesn't like that because it shows that you still have a connection with your old village. Now you officially belong to Sound and nothing else."
She folded the Konoha protector and placed it into another pocket before taking out the Sound protector and tying it around her neck.
"Although... don't throw away your old one though, you may need it for some occasion," he added in darkly before leaving.
-"What are you standing around like a lost sheep for?" he sneered.
"Baa," she replied dryly.
Rage flickered in his brown eyes before they were replace by amusement. "You should be training hard if you don't have any missions. Barely got any muscle of you," Ranji informed.
She evaluated him for a moment before she shrugged. "Having excess muscles would only slow me down."
"That would mean your attacks would be weak," he remarked, smacking his fist against the palm of his hand.
"Only if I fought in the same style as you," Hinata sighed.
He fell silent as he regarded her thoughtfully before he finally spoke. "You use another style of fighting right?" he asked slowly.
She gave a nod in response.
"You should still train," Ranji finally said, switching back to his original suggestion.
Her lips twitched into a crooked smile, he was a simpleton but she didn't mind. He didn't pry into what wasn't of his business... for that she would tolerate him.
"Sure, why not?" she asked softly.
"Are you sure about this?"
"I'm not asking you to come along."
"He only asked if you are sure about this decision."
"Then we shall come with you."
"Exactly why we are coming along with you."
"After all, who knows what trouble you will get yourself into?"
Her attention broke as a shrill sound rung through the room. "What was that?" she asked, fingers tightening around her kunai.
Ranji gave a shrug, "Some intruders coming near the premises," he said nonchalantly.
Chakra immediately channeled into her eyes as her vision to blurs of black and white as she searched the area and almost immediately she detected the blue of a several chakra systems. Releasing the chakra, she gave a crooked smile as she looked at her companion.
"Want to go and fight them?" she asked, tilting her head to look at him.
He gave a nod in return, and the two hastened to the exit.
"What do you think you are doing?" a cold voice interrupted, as they stepped outside.
Ranji paused and looked hesistant, but Hinata continued along. "Most likely the same thing you are doing, Uchiha," she said in reply.
Sasuke dropped from his perch in the branch to land beside her. "Go back, you won't be needed," he ordered, looking at Ranji.
"You better not get in the way," Hinata said in warning, leaping up to travel via the trees.
"Same goes for you, Hyuga," he countered, trailing slightly behind her.
As they drew closer to the intruders, Hinata held up a hand in warning, and Sasuke stopped beside her. Two of her fingers dropped, indicating that there were only three intruders.
"Do you have a plan?" he asked in a lower tone.
Cold white eyes snapped to his direction before she gave a nod. "Let's go," she said in a strained voice, leaping down to the ground.
He signalled behind his back and his two companions stopped near him, falling into stances of their own.
"Only two?" the female asked, taking out an assortment of weapons.
"Yea," one the males confirmed, hands flaring with chakra in preparation.
All three tensed as two figures dropped to the ground.
"Uchiha," Lee murmured, taking notice of the crimson red eyes that belonged to the taller of the two.
Shocked appeared in a pair of white eyes, but it wasn't the recognition of the Uchiha that had surprised him. It was the other. He could recognise that person anywhere, despite the darker clothes they now wore, despite the fact that their fringe had grown and parted to reveal the unmarked forehead.
But it was the pale eyes that seemed so familiar yet so unknown at the same time.
"Hinata-sama," Neji hissed.
Uchiha Sasuke glanced warily at his companion, not liking the absolute emotionless look on her face. He would have expected to at least see some sign of emtion at the confrontion of someone from her past. Especially her older cousin, yet there was nothing.
What was she?
He had glimpsed her several times the past week, yet he had never seen her like this before. Was this what Orochimaru was talking about, her true self? Was this what she looked like when she killed her own father?
Looking at her like this... the crime she had commited sounded perfectly plausible. His frowned deepened as his gaze dropped to her hands, watching her form a simple one handed seal.
What was she doing?
All three of shinobis of leaf tensed as they watched as her hand come up to form a seal.
Two felt confusion as nothing appeared to happen.
One recognised that seal.
Two watched as nothing appeared to happen.
One clutched at his forehead and crumpled to the ground.
In the instant the two turned towards their fallen team mate, one of the enemy's form flickered and disappeared, and the two fell with senbons in their necks.
The first to fall remained conscious, watching in a mixture of horror, confusion and pain.
"Why did you come?" his cousin asked cruelly, her hand remaining in the same seal.
His forehead continued to explode with pain, but his eyes remained fixated on his cousin. "I...I..." he said feebly.
"You what? You came here to rescue me? You wanted to know why I killed my father?" she demanded, crossing over to him and glaring down at him.
His mouth opened soundlessly, forming empty words.
"You are a fool Neji. You should be back at Konoha, protecting your precious new leader. Wouldn't want her to die would you?" she sneered, her hand dropping from the seal to reach for her weapons.
"Hi..na-" he began before he was cut off as several projectiles were flung at him.
Sasuke came to step in front of his comrade, reaching down to check their pulses. A moment later he straightened,and looked at Hinata. "No pulse," he decided, making his way back to the base.
She remained standing in the same spot for a moment, before a steely look came into her eyes and she turned and followed him.
"You saw what she is capable of," he said smoothly.
His scowl deepened at that statement. "I don't care. You should be teaching me a new technique and not talking about the new recuit," Uchiha Sasuke informed.
Orochimaru only smiled slyly at that statement.
"You are weak, you couldn't even kill your cousin, let alone his team mates," Sasuke sneered.
The smile froze on her lips as she heard his statement. "You checked the pulses yourself. You claimed their pulses stopped. It was your mistake and not mine," she said in a calm manner.
"All you had to do with a hit a certain point of their body and that would send them into a death like state," he stated, absently touching the back of his neck.
"Oh I must have missed the vital point then," Hinata said carelessly, shrugging her shoulders.
"Only the strong survive here. If you are going to act like that, you may as well start digging your own grave," Sasuke scowled, striding away.
Only the strong survive? Who the hell did he think he was, telling me what I already know!
She shifted her body to one side, seizing the arm that shot towards her, hooked her foot around his ankle and tugged, effeciently making him stumble past her.
"Those muscles only slow you down," she snapped harshly, watching him regain his balance.
He shot towards her, creating a crack in the ground where she previously stood. Further away from him, she made an annoyed sound before her form flickered and disappeared.
Though if he knew that they weren't dead... why did he leave them alone? Was this a test? Are they suspicious of me?
"Doesn't matter how strong you are, if you can't land a blow," Hinata snarled, her empty palm striking his stomach before her free arm came up to block a blow, sending her skidding to one side.
She made a move to attack again but he held up his stand to stop her. "If you are going to fight whilst you are distracted, then you may as well start digging your own grave," Ranji informed.
Her eyes darkened to a light gray in anger as she recognised the familiarity in those words. May as well start digging my own grave huh? You are just like that Uchiha bastard, she thought darkly as she sprang forward, chakra gathering in her hand in preperation.
Many minutes she sank into a crouch, one hand pressed to her cut lip whilst her eyes remained steadyfast fixed at him. Ranji didn't spare a glance at her but instead poked tentatively at his ribs and stomach.
"Odd. My flesh and skin isn't damaged and I am quite sure my bones are broken but it hurts," he said simply, before adding in brightly. "So that's what the gentle-fist style of fighting does. Not as harmless as I thought."
Another time and she might have been mildly pleased with this simpleton, but not now. "Whatever. I'm going," she said in a cold tone.
"You should go to the infirmatary to get those injuries healed." Ranji added in.
Her eyes narrowed as she spared him one last glare before she walked off. "These injuries are nothing," she said, a bitter tone arising in her voice.
"Good afternoon Hinata-hime," Orochimaru greeted smoothly.
Afternoon? How was she supposed to tell when the only type of lighting is torchlight or this poor one that just barely illuminates the surroundings. Instead of voicing her thoughts, she gave a curt nod instead.
"How are you liking Sound so far?" he asked in a pleasant manner, even though his yellow eyes were hard discs.
"It's...fine," she answered in a slow and cautious manner.
"Any problems with your room?" Orochimaru continued to question.
"No. It's fine... thanks," she added politely.
"Homesick?" he said in the same manner.
Her uncertain smile froze on her lips for a moment before the coldness transferred to her voice. "No. Is there a reason I should be?" she in turn asked, eyes darkening.
"Of course not," Orochimaru answered smoothly.
"... Is there anything you want to further discuss with me?" Hinata questioned.
"You have a mission. Sasuke-kun will inform you of the details, so you can go find him," Orochimaru informed.
"Of course... Orochimaru-sama" Hinata agreed, getting to her feet.
As reached for the door knob, Orochimaru added in. "Make sure you kill this person for sure, unlike those other shinobis," he said silkily.
Her fingers hovered above the door knob for a brief moment before she opened the door and slipped out.
"What's the mission?" she asked nonchalantly, leaning against the wall.
"A traitor we have to hunt down," he answered in a similiar casual manner.
"Do I know them?" Hinata asked.
His lips quirked into a smirk. "Does the name Ranji ring any bells?" he asked, eyes opening to gauge her reaction.
Her facial expressions remained unchanged as she gave a nod.
"You better not spare his life as well," Sasuke informed, warningly.
"Why would I? I don't have any connections to him," Hinata answered coldly.
The only reason I spared Neji and his team mates because I owed something to them. Neji... he was Hanabi's protector. Lee and TenTen... because they saved my cousin's life several times in the past.
As for Ranji. He means as much to me as my father did. Very little.
Killing him would guarantee my loyalty to Sound.
Ranji was nothing but a stepping stone.
I can't afford to have Sound doubt me anymore. I did too much already. Sparing the lives of my former companions was already too high a risk. I almost lost the trust of Sound... I almost put everything I did up to now in jepordy.
I escaped from Konoha with my life. I couldn't afford to lose my life to Sound now. Not while I could still protect my younger sister. There had always been rumors that Sound would attempt to invade Konoha once again.
I would have to be with Sound whilst that happened. That way... one of my actions may act as a catalyst so that Hanabi's life could be spared.
I have to give Orochimaru no reason to doubt me. I needed to be the perfect kunoichi of Sound. I'm not going to spare the life of a single person I happened to know stop me. Ranji... he was nothing.
Why would I spare his life when didn't even spare the life of my father?
He would die by my hands just like my father did.
He would just be another stepping stone so that I could hold the promise I made many years ago.
"Leaving so soon?" she asked, cold white eyes emphasised by the veins surrounding them.
His brown eyes were filled with confusion, "Orochimaru sent me on a mission," Ranji said slowly.
There was no further purpose of her bloodline limit, but she kept it on so she could read his emotions. If exposed to death... what would be his reaction? He acted like a courageous man, but that was just the surface. Beneath he could a coward, hiding behind his muscles.
But right now, her byakugan indicated to her that either he was a very good liar, or that he was telling the truth.
She understood now. That was the test.
Orochimaru must have known that she would have seen to the truth, and give her the option to kill him for no reason or to spare his life. Did he really think she would chose the later option? Did he really need to make up an elaborate lie?
He didn't trust her. Quite expected really. So now... it was a time to prove herself.
"Orochimaru sent me on a mission as well," Hinata stated.
There was the distinctive sound of shurikens whirling as they came towards Ranji who dodged them. His brown eyes searched the area until the located Sasuke, standing on a branch near to Hinata.
He will get a swift death. She would give him that much. She owed him that much.
She shot forward, ducking under his arm and resting her hand against his heart before she forced her chakra into it. He exploded into earth and she stepped back, eyeing the remains of the earth clone.
Of course... It wouldn't be that simple.
Why did everything have to be so complex and difficult.
All she wanted to do was be in the role of a protective older sister.
She never expected that she would have to kill to protect her sister. Yes maybe from a stranger nin... but from her own father.
She never expected her hands to be that badly tainted with blood.
She never expected that she would resort to using her juin seal against her dear cousin and so badly endangering his life as well as his teammates.
It wasn't supposed to be like this.
All she wanted to do was be the obedient daughter and obey her mother's wish at her death bed. Protect Hanabi.
How hard was supposed to be... nothing like this. It wasn't meant to be like this.
She could feel her internal walls crumbling.
Why was she regretting now?
She remained unmoving as an earth based attack surged at her. She didn't react as Sasuke leapt down and sprang forward from a crouch to tackle her out of the way. She just watched with empty eyes as he easily defeated Ranji.
"Give the final blow Hyuga," he ordered, passing his hand in front of her empty eyes.
She seemed to refocus and shield away from him, all the while shaking her head. "I... I can't," she said, sounding weak.
Her internal walls were crumbling, her mask was sliding away.
The truth was... she wasn't that strong. Potential was pointless if it wasn't tapped into. She didn't have the mental strength to take his life... when she saw no true reason to.
"Hinata... Orochimaru already doesn't trust you. If you are trustworthy to him, then you are necessary to him," Sasuke said in a low voice.
"Both you and I know I hold no loyalty to sound," Hinata whispered.
A touch of surprise crossed his face before it disappeared just as quickly. "You should not say things so openly. You could lose your life like that."
She licked her lips in anticipation. "Are you going to take my life then?" she whispered.
He remained silent and crossed over to the unconscious Ranji and placed his hand over his chest before forcefully releasing his chakra in a poor imitation of her juken.
"Consider yourself lucky I copied your strike from earlier. Just hope no one has the skill to identify the chakra in his body," Sasuke said coldly, turning away from her.
She watched him in surprise.
"You killed your father to survive. It won't be much good if you are dead," he stated, taking her hand and pulling her up so she was back on her feet.
That was the reason she was out here. But it still didn't rid the guilt of taking innocent lives.
Had the situation been different and she would have still been in Konoha, training to become a medical ninja rather than be a cold blooded killer.
It wouldn't do any good if she was dead... but at the moment it was awfully painful to live.
Why was she feeling so guilty now of all times. She felt no guilt when she killed her father, she felt no guilt when she knocked out those anbu and left Konoha. There was no guilt when watched her cousin fall to the ground in pain from the juin seal.
So why did it come now... this was the very time she didn't need the guilt. Now she was too weak emotionally to take a life. She couldn't take the lives of her former comrades... and now she couldn't take the life of a person she barely knew.
This was stupid.
She was raised as a Hyuga... as a kunoichi. She had to disregard emotion and ignore it. She had to stop being weak.
Hinata remained silent and let him tug her back to the building.
As soon as they reached the cover of the building, she shifted away from him, her hand beginning to leave his.
His hands tightened on her fingers for a moment as he gave a meaningful glance towards her. "Don't do anything foolish," he muttered, before releasing her.
She gave a tight smile that contained no mirth before she turned away.
So... his inital impressions of her were partially right. She was weak. But not physically though.
She could defeat the Hyuga clan leader, the supposed best user of the strongest taijutsu type in Konoha. She could defeat several Anbu members despite the fact her inner coils were damaged.
But what was the point when she didn't have the mental strength to take the lives of her former comrades, let alone a person who was practically a stranger to her.
She was unstable. That came to no surprise to him after the past events. Too much had happened to her in a month's time.
Still, Hinata could still be useful.
Time would tell.
"Hinata." he begun.
"What? Not Hyuga anymore?" she asked softly.
"I didn't see you today," Sasuke stated.
"There's nothing to worry about. It's not like I'm planning to take my life in my room," a bitter smile flickered upon her face.
His face remained impassive as he took a seat on the edge of her bed.
"I was going to go out to train like I usually do... but it occurred to me that most people wouldn't like their internal organs severely damaged," Hinata said in a calm voice.
"So how long do you plan to mourn over his death?" he asked angrily.
At this, her pale eyes widened in surprise. "Why would I care about his death? I barely even knew him," she continued in the same hollow voice.
"Yet you didn't take his life," he said in a low tone. Immediately after he fell silent, unsure of his words.
Her gaze dropped to her hands that rested in her lap.
"I was always pathetic at attempting to take lives," she said as an answer.
"Why are you here?" he asked suddenly.
A question that could refer to many things.
"Hm?" she questioned in reply.
"Why are you here in Sound?" he begun.
"It was either Sound or death. I couldn't go that far from Konoha in that state I was in before."
"Why did you leave Konoha?"
"Again. Leave Konoha or death."
"Why did you kill your own father?" he finally reached the question he wanted to ask.
"You've asked this question before..." she said lightly.
"Why did you kill your own father?" Sasuke repeated.
Her eyes flickered to his, holding her gaze for a moment before she looked away. "I hated him."
"A stupid excuse," he scoffed.
"I suppose so," she agreed.
He stood up abruptly, traces of anger visible on his face. "What the hell is wrong with you?" he demanded.
Wide white eyes shifted to look questioningly at him.
"You!-" he begun but broke off, turning sharply away from her. "Forget it," he muttered in a softer tone.
The two remained in silence, Sasuke watching her from the corner of his eyes.
"Um..." Hinata begun softly.
He turned half way around, his pale hand encircling around her equally pale wrist before he turned back towards her door and stepped towards her. Confused, she scrambled off her bed and as soon as she had done so, he pulled her out of the room.
"Uchiha.." she attempted to say.
However in response he merely hastened his pace, forcing her to match it or let herself be dragged along.
I shouldn't be spending so much time around him... he is too close to Orochimaru. He can't be trusted.
But he's a Konoha-nin just like me, he was in the same academy as me. I knew him every since I was a child, from the occasion meetings between Hyuga and Uchiha.
I never spoke with him though. He is dangerous. He joined Sound for power, he didn't care about his former comrades. He endangered their lives. Her cousin. Her teammate. Her friends. He even tried to kill his best friend. He is dangerous.
But he joined Sound for power, so that he could defeat his brother and take vengeance for his dead clan. He has good motives, even if his methods of achieving them are not so noble.
Part of me wanted to trust him, a natural trust because we came from the same village, but my logical side deferred against it. I couldn't understand him, even if I could occasionally read his emotions, I couldn't tell whether I could actually trust him or not.
It doesn't matter. I just got to keep my guard up.
I have to remember the reason I am here and what I done to get here. The person I killed... the people I injured... the illusion I weaved around me...
I can't let it go to waste now. I can't regret right now. I can't keep caring about strangers. I can't keep thinking about what I had done.
I have to disregard the sins I committed... for now anyway.
Sasuke stopped abruptly, and Hinata almost collided with his back. She looked past him, and at the trees that makeshift targets hung from before looking back to him.
He turned his head, an eyebrow raised. "What?" he asked flatly.
She looked at him doubtfully, her gaze drifting back towards the targets.
"It's training," Sasuke stated.
"We learnt this in the academy," Hinata murmured, still looking doubtful.
"Just practice," he said gruffly.
"But-" she begun in protest.
He turned back to her, stepping closer towards her. "It's something to do. It's something to kill time. It's just a way to keep sanity in a place like this," he said in a soft tone.
Her eyes fixated at the high collar of his shirt rather than at his face as she gave a hesitant nod.
Perhaps he could be trusted.
Under his cold demeanor, she caught glimpses of something else. He did not care only for himself. He was not as strong as he pretended.
Those words he said told her that. If she had only been here for a month and was already starting to question why she was here... what must he be thinking. He had been in this place for two years, with no friends, with no one trying to save him anymore. Now, no one even tried to pursue him anymore. They had given up on him.
He wasn't so cold, he wasn't so uncaring. In the beginning he had only shown his hatred for her, but then with the incident... when she could not kill, he did so. When she did not come out for training, he all but dragged her there. He seemed so different.
Back when they were both in Konoha, she couldn't recall ever-exchanging more than two words to him. All she thought of him was that he was an arrogant Uchiha. As missing-nins, she thought him to be dangerous, power hungry... but he wasn't just that.
Beneath his cold exterior, he was something else.
A fellow Konoha.
An unstable boy.
He was not there. Impatiently, she turned her head to locate the sun that was directly above her, and the look of distaste on her face deepened. It was already the noon and he wasn't there. Her hand reached down for a shuriken, and she flicked it in the direction of one of the targets. It sunk deep into the wood, next to the other projectiles that were peppered amongst the target.
Sighing heavily, she checked the area around her and found nothing, so in conclusion she trudged back to the base. If he wasn't there, she wasn't going to go out of her way to find him.
He was avoiding her. Several times she sensed his presence and immediately afterwards it was masked. She didn't understand why. It had been almost two months now since they had begun training together and he wasn't the type to avoid things. He was more abrupt, so she couldn't understand his behaviour now. He wasn't on a mission since he was clearly still around her, yet he had revealed no sign of himself to her. It irritated her. As she neared the corner, she sensed a presence and hastened, thinking it was Sasuke.
"Where-" the words died from her mouth as she saw whom it was. Kabuto.
Her lips pressed together as she willed her facial features to remain blank.
"Ah Hinata-san, I haven't seen you for a while now," Kabuto greeted openly.
Her only response was to give a curt nod. In truth she had attempted to stay away from him... there was something about him that made her distrust him. She couldn't read him... unlike the others - even Orochimaru, she could partially read them or more rather their emotions. With him she couldn't tell whether his smile was fake or if his innocent seeming conversations to her were actually darker.
"Are you looking for Sasuke-kun?" he adjusted his glasses so that the light reflected momentarily off them hiding his eyes, but when the glare disappeared there was only a pleasant look in his eyes.
Hinata gave a shrug, her eyes fixated at him. "He wasn't at training," she mentioned nonchalantly.
At this, his lips turned up into a smile whether it was a sly one or a polite one she could not tell. "Orochimaru-sama gave him an errand to do, no doubt he would be rather busy," Kabuto commented, his words sounding casual but the slightest of a sly tone crept into his voice. If she had detected that tone, no doubt he had done that on purpose but nonetheless it left her curious. "Right. Thanks," she said coldly, brushing him off as she walked directly past him not even sparing him a glance.
The glare of light reflecting from his lenses disabled her from seeing his eyes anyway.
There! She could sense his presence again. She hastened around the corner, skidding to a halt as she located him, surprised that she had found him so easily this time. He looked surprise, if only for a moment, before the mask was back on his face and dark eyes stared dully at her. Her pale eyes watched his face for any sign of emotion and caught the quick glance down at the papers he was holding.
"What maps are those?" Hinata questioned, brushing back the longer strands of her hair back.
He shifted, angling the papers so it was out of her line of vision. "It's nothing important," Sasuke said flatly.
White eyes narrowed in a glare and he stared back unfazed. After a moment, she realized he wasn't going to say anything, so she stepped closer and stood on her toes so she could look down at the papers.
He abruptly stepped away, holding the papers to his chest. "It's nothing important," he repeated flatly.
He was lying. She could read that much. Annoyance at a pointless training session. Annoyance that he was avoiding her. Annoyance that Kabuto knew something. Annoyance served as a catalyst for the triggering of her advanced bloodline limit. Then it was easy to look at the sheets of paper he was attempting to shield from her.
"Konoha?" she demanded. "Why do you have maps of Konoha?" she asked, even though she knew the answer.
So this was what Kabuto knew about. It was inevitable that Orochimaru was going to attempt an invasion again but she hadn't expected it to actually happen. All this time she had been so relaxed, she didn't actually think that she would be in this situation. Panic started to rise but she hid her emotions beneath a face that openly showed accusation. This was not good. Sound was going to invade Konoha! She couldn't let this happen. She couldn't.
"Calm down Hinata. This is why I was avoiding you. I figured it was best that you didn't know until it was utmost necessary," Sasuke said, a hint of irritancies audible in his voice.
"Why is that?" Hinata asked as calmly as she could, but it ended up sounding really strained even to her own ears.
"How long has it been since you came here?" Sasuke questioned, changing the subject.
"What does that have to do-" she begun before he cut her off.
"Just answer the question," he ordered, his tone becoming more commanding.
"Maybe six, seven months," Hinata answered, after a moment of thought.
"You spent almost fourteen years in Konoha and you haven't even been here a year. Frankly speaking, there is no doubt you still hold some loyalty to your home village," he stated, crimson eyes now glaring at her.
Her mouth opened to deny what he said but no words appeared in her mind. "Y-you. You are the same as me," her childhood trait of stammering arose momentarily before she squashed it back down along with her fears.
"No. There is nothing for me in Konoha," Sasuke said, spacing each word out carefully so it left no room for mistake.
Again she opened her mouth to say something else but in her mind she knew he was partially right. He had no family. Family. That reminded her of her own family. That reminded her of why she was here.
"There is nothing here for me either," Hinata lied, sliding into the role of a Hyuga. Emotions must be hidden. Emotions are a sign of weakness. They should not exist.
His face observed hers carefully, as if searching for a sign of her lying but he appeared to find nothing. Content, he relaxed slightly, no longer shielding the half drawn maps.
"Then you wouldn't mind helping me sketch out the map of Konoha and its surrounding would you? It's been over two years since I've been there. I suppose your memory would be more fresh that mine," he asked casually.
She was tempted to refuse. If he didn't recall the surroundings, then perhaps they would have to send scouts and maybe some of the sentries of Konoha may spot them. Then again perhaps he would be suspicious of her if she didn't agree. True she trusted him, but it was Orochimaru and Kabuto she did not trust. They were like snakes, the both of them.
She would agree. Perhaps then she could give out slight inaccurate details of Konoha. Little mistakes could ad up. It could be a chance for her to subtly ruin their plans of the invasion. But she had to be wary. What if this was a test? What if they were trying to see whether or not she would give false information? It didn't matter.
"Alright," she reluctantly agreed.
By the ever so slight widening of his eyes, she knew he had been surprised by her agreement in helping. It didn't bother her. Perhaps in this way, if they didn't have enough detail in the maps, they would have to risk scouting the perimeters of Fire Country, and possibly go near Konoha.
Perhaps she would be able to warn Konoha of the forthcoming events. It was risky. One wrong mistake and everything she had done so far would be been in vain. She would have to be careful and hope that would be enough. One wrong step and she would be dead. Sound does not deal with traitors well, even if it was her. Because of her blood, her heritage... some of the small mistakes she had made would be been overlooked. But something as high as treason... they would most likely learn the secrets of her eyes before killing her and Konoha... she was a traitor to Konoha already.
But she still had to warn Konoha somewhere. Her family was there, her old comrades were still there, despite what she wanted to tell herself... she still had bonds with them and she did not want to see them dead. She was a protector. That was the destiny her mother had given her.
Her pale pupiless eyes looked over the map carefully, a look of scrutiny set upon her face.
"Where do you suppose we attack?" Kabuto questioned.
"We should attack from this entrance since not many strong shinobis are in this region," Sasuke jabbed at a location on the map.
"No," Hinata said sharply, "Konoha's defenses are quite remarkable. It wouldn't take long for them to get here."
"Then what do you suggest we do?" a smooth voice asked. "Hina-hime," Orochimaru greeted as he stepped out from the shadows.
Her blood ran cold at his voice but nonetheless she gave a polite nod. "I think we should get some of Sound to attack here," she pointed in the map, opposite from where Sasuke had previously jabbed.
"That's near the Hyuga clan," Sasuke said critically, his dark eyes tracing from where she gestured to the square with the Hyuga clan symbol on it.
"Exactly. The Hyuga's would no doubt notice us, so whilst some shinobis make their way to defend, we get a group to attack from the opposite entrance," Hinata informed.
"However, would not Konoha see through the plan?" Kabuto enquired.
"And then Konoha would concentrate the defense on the other entrances," the Uchiha frowned.
"The entrance we initially attacked from would have lesser people defending, because Konoha knows how capable the Hyuga clan is, so they won't need assistance. So all we have to do is defeat the Hyugas and get enough of our own into Konoha to destroy it from the inside," Hinata explained, an impatient look on her pale features.
"Konoha would leave the defending of that gate to the Hyugas for a reason. But the Hyugas are not a force to be meddled with so easily. Numbers against them would not be that effective," Kabuto remarked, pointing out the mistake in her idea.
"The majority of the Hyuga clan is of the Branch are they not? There are little of Main correct?" Orochimaru questioned, and at that statement realization dawned on the Uchiha and on Kabuto.
Hinata gave a small tight-lipped smile in response.
The question still remained. How was she to warn Konoha without their knowing? It was not be good to just leave Sound and not return because then Orochimaru and Kabuto would see through her plan and delay with the attack. She needed to get rid of the threat of Sound but Konoha would not deal well without warning. But she didn't have much time... the invasion would be in a week...
Hinata glanced over at the dark haired Uchiha who appeared oblivious to her glances.
There was a possibility. Over the months she had purposely developed a friendship with Sasuke and it was clear at times that he was aware of her disloyalty to Sound yet he did not question her about it but just kept it a secret. If she could trust him, warning Konoha would he easier as Orochimaru would be less likely to suspect her if she kept in the company of his right hand man.
But could she trust him?
As much as she hated to take a risk, this was the only way that she could see it. Did Sasuke hold any loyalty towards Orochimaru and Kabuto or would he help commit the act of treason? Even though he had clearly said that there was nothing for him in Konoha he could be lying.
"When are we to go?" Sasuke asked in a calm manner.
"The invasion starts in seven days, you should know that," she answered, a feeling of both wariness and curiosity rising.
"No. When do we leave to warn Konoha?" Sasuke questioned, inclining his head slightly dark eyes looking expectant.
At that moment, she realized that he knew. How could he not? He was not stupid. But what caused a chill of fear was that if he knew, then did Orochimaru and Kabuto know? She had kept her guard up around the two latter, but around him she had not been careful. Sasuke could have told them.
"That is what you are going to do right?" he continued calmly, unfazed by her silence.
"T-that... That is treason against Konoha," Hinata frowned, confused. Was this an attempt to make her reveal her true plans too early or did he truly want to help? Her eyes watched his face carefully, searching for a sign of a lie but saw only truth. She relaxed slightly.
"When I said there was nothing for me in Konoha, that was true in a way. But the reason I want to help Konoha is because I know that is what the dead-last would do, however he is out training so I suppose I would have to do that for him. An obligation if you call it... to my best friend," Sasuke stated, muttering the last few words in a softer tone.
Her ears caught those last words. He saw Naruto as a best friend? In her eyes they seem more like rivals than anything, but she could see truth in his eyes.
"So you are going to betray Orochimaru?" Hinata questioned softly, her suspicion dying away.
"I only went to Orochimaru for power, but for my safety it would not be good to stay anything longer since soon he will be able to be the host of my body. So I saw this as a way to put an end to my association with that snake. But tell me, why do you want to save Konoha? After all you did abandon Konoha." Sasuke changed the subject, his tone now becoming accusing.
"I left Konoha because I had no choice! I couldn't die just yet," Hinata hissed, moving to her feet.
Sasuke stood up as well, his pace matching hers.
"We go warn Konoha now, we have an hour at the maximum," she scowled.
The feeling of nostalgia. She could feel it now at she stared up at the familiar high gates. Cautiously, she glanced at the location of the sun as a way to judging the time. After exchanging a brief nod from Sasuke, the two scaled the walls and leapt down onto the ground on the other side.
"Why didn't we just tell the people at the gates?" Hinata muttered to Sasuke as they continued along.
"That's because those people have been trained to deal with intruders and send up warnings. We don't want anyone unnecessary to know that we are here," he answered.
"We are wasting-" she begun hotly, before raising a hand for both silence and to tell him to stop.
The chattered of voices became audible and more defined as it approached them.
"Three brats," Hinata murmured to Sasuke, the veins prominent around her eyes.
Sasuke looked at her expectantly before he leapt out, so Hinata hastily copied his actions.
The three children were obviously surprised by their sudden appearance, but were even more startled by the forehead protector with the symbol of Sound that they bore.
"Try to call for help and you'll be dead before you even realize anything," Sasuke threatened, twirling a kunai around in his hand as he watched them.
"What do you Sound bastards want?" the brown eyes, supposed leader of the three questioned in an attempt to sound brave.
"Shut up, cussing doesn't suit a little brat like you. Stupid too. What do you think we Sound-nins are here for?" Hinata asked cruelly, the veins around her eyes fading.
There was no reply.
"Sound is going to invade your little village in maybe seven days," Sasuke stated, crimson eyes glaring.
"Why are you telling us this?" the female asked, half hidden between the taller male.
"There is going to be an initial attack at the gate closest to the Hyugas... it will be small and seemingly for the purpose of a distraction. At that stage, there will be a stronger attacker. But however, do not send all your forces there, instead send your forces towards the direction of the first gate," Hinata explained, not even slowing down her words as she watched the second male jot down what she was saying.
"Let's go," Sasuke said to her, turning to leave.
"Wait! Do you realize that no one is going to believe what we are saying? Why would Sound-nins warn us of an attack and tell us where they will be attacking?" the male who had written down what she had written demanded.
"Because it is former leaf-nins that are warning you," Hinata said in a softer tone. Her hand reached up to her neckline, search for a thin chain that she tugged on so it fell into her hand. Her thumb rubbed over the red pendant momentarily before she tossed it towards the leader of the three. "There's your proof. Any Hyuga would be able to recognize it."
As they started to leave, one of the boys; the leader called after them. "You are Hanabi's neechan aren't you?"
They had already left.
"I didn't kill my father because I hated him." Hinata broke the silence, almost regrettingly.
At this, a neutral expression settled on Sasuke's face, and she took that was a sign to continue on.
"You asked me why I killed him when we first met, so I'll tell you now. It's true I hated him, but he was my own blood and I did not wish for his death. As an older sister... I had to... I had obligations," she stumbled over her words as she attempted to find the right ones to describe her prediment. "I had to protect her... Hanabi."
A surprised look flitted through his eyes before he masked it. "From what?"
"The seal of the Branch House... no... it wasn't really the seal. The seal was merely a symbol of what she would be. I didn't want her life caged. I don't want others to be able to inflict pain on her so easily... not my father... not me. I didn't want her to have that life," Hinata whispered, her hands curling into fists. "I-"
"That's enough Hinata. Forget I ever asked your reasons for killing your Father," Sasuke said dismissingly, shoving his hands into his pockets as he hastened his pace.
They continued in silence.
"Hokage-sama!" Konohamaru bellowed as he bursted into the room, followed by his two companions.
Tsunade, the Godaime Hokage looked at him in surprise, more at the fact that he had called her by her title.
"Sound! Sound is... going to invade... Konoha soon!" Udon exclaimed, his statement being broken up by his heavy breathing.
Her brows met in a frown as Tsunade looked at the eleven year old academy students over her interlaced fingers. "Why do you say that?" she asked, spacing each word out.
"Two of them told us, two sound-nins," Udon answered.
"They said they were former leaf-nins," Moegi added helpfully.
"The girl, she gave me this as proof. It's the Hyuga crest," Konohamaru said solemnly, holding up the chain of which the Hyuga crest hung from.
At the sight of the pendant, the Hokage's eyes went wide momentarily before she sunk back into her chair suddenly looking weary and much older than she appeared.
"The guy was an Uchiha... he had his sharingan... and the girl must have been Hanabi's older sister," Konohamaru said softly, his personality seeming abnormal compared to how he usually was.
"Kamizuki! Hagane!" Tsunade called out. "Get me Hyuga Neji right now! I don't care if he's busy... just get him!" she commanded, her tone leaving no room for arguments.
Ten minutes later, the two returned with Neji followed at a slower pace. "What is it Tsunade-sama?" he asked, looking irritated at suddenly being called.
At his question, Tsunade held up the fragile chain in which the Hyuga crest hung off. "Konohamaru gave me this today."
Neji's features did not change. "Did Konohamaru steal it off Hanabi? You could have gotten him to return it instead of calling me-"
"Konohamaru got it from a kunoichi that wore the symbol of Sound," Tsunade stated.
Surprise filled the face of the Hyuga genius. "Hinata-sama..." Neji breathed, not even aware that he added in the honorific after the name.
Tsunade only gave a grim nod in return.
Both the Hyuga and the Uchiha froze as they heard the faint sound of voices that was gradually approaching them.
"Shit," Hinata cussed, "If they find us here, they will be suspicious," she muttered loudly, her eyes searching the area for a place to hide.
Sasuke appeared calmer as he pushed her against the tree and stepped closer to her, blocking off her path.
The voices drew nearer.
"What the hell are you doing Sasuke?" she hissed, attempting to move away from him as she caught glimpses of other shinobis of Sound stepping into her line of vision.
At that instant, Sasuke leaned forward until his mouth was a hair's breadth away from her mouth. Understanding flitted across her eyes as her arms came up to rest on his shoulders. Sasuke moved forward slightly until his lips brushed her own before he pulled back, a neutral expression settling on his face.
There was a cough.
Sensing that she had to do her part as well, she stepped sideways so she was no longer hidden behind Sasuke and willed a blush to her face. It came easily to her face, due to former years of practice.
"Uchiha and Hyuga," a sly voice commented. "We will leave you alone, just on sentry," he winked.
She stared at him, white eyes glaring into his before her form shimmered and she disappeared. There was only a slight pause before Sasuke disappeared too.
Further away from the others, Hinata spared a glance at Sasuke. "At least there is a plausible excuse for our disappeance now," she said impassively.
It was raining when the attack begun. Moving as one, Sound swarmed the gate quickly disposing of the two guards on duty. It didn't take long before the Hyugas came to defend their village. Moments later, Sound attacked the opposite gate with seemingly more forces. The Hyugas disposed easily of the Sound invaders at their region... but as if by an invisible signal the Sound forces drew away from them and one kunoichi stepped forward to oppose the Hyugas. One of their own.
A brave Branch member stepped forward, determined to defend his village but almost instantly he had crumpled to the ground. The other Hyugas linger back, unsure and cautious yet pride compelled them to stay... to fight.
"Don't be fools," Hinata said cruelly. "You can't win. Tch, not whilst you are still branded with the curse seal," her face was smooth and cold as ice, yet there was a somewhat regretful tone in her voice.
"Then I will have to fight you. As the successor to my clan, I shall protect it," an arrogrant voice youthful voice declared.
For a moment, Hinata's eyes softened but they iced over. "Don't be foolish Hanabi. You can't win. You are far too young and your byakugan has not reached its full potential yet," she scoffed.
At that Hanabi tossed her damp hair back, and fell into the fighting stance of her clan, her bloodline limit activated. "I've beaten you before," she sneered, appearing to hold no affection for her older sister.
Hinata mirrored her stance. "Not everything is as simple as it appears Hanabi," she said calmly.
As if by an unseen signal, both sisters shot forward, both fighting in the style of their clan. Trails of chakra lingered in the air undisturbed by the rain as they exchanged strikes. Even as they started fighting, Hanabi could see that her sister was alot stronger than she had imagined. Hinata was merely knocking her strikes aside, not even bothering to hit yet and to make it worse, Hinata hadn't even activated her byakugan yet.
Hanabi could see the difference of strength now. This was true strength of Hinata, the person who was able to kill their father, the person who defeated Anbu in a weakened state. Behind them, the Hyugas rushed forward again to continue fighting the other sound-nins, leaving Hinata and Hanabi alone.
Anger appeared in Hanabi's face as yet another strike was knocked aside. "Why don't you just kill me already! You had no trouble killing father! Are you just going to toy with me like you did to Neji?" Hanabi spat spitefully.
Hinata's face remained impassive, although her voice betrayed her. "I did what was necessary," she said in a regretful tone, not even breaking a step from fighting.
"No! I thought you killed Father to protect me... I was willing to accept that. But then you ran off to Sound... and Neji... You used the curse seal against him! You left him for dead! That's why I hate you!" Hanabi yelled, her voice rising an octave higher.
"No... You are too young... young enough to mistaken betrayal for hatred," Hinata said in an almost gentle tone.
"No! I hate you! That's why I am going to kill you!" Hanabi shrieked, anger twisting her still childish features.
Hanabi gathered her chakra to her hand and lunged forward, aiming for Hinata's heart. Shifting, Hinata easily dodged it her own palm moving toward Hanabi. Another pale hand jerked into the bodies of the two sisters and caught the attacking hand.
"Hinata-sama, please stop," Neji requested.
Three different sets of pale pupiless eyes.
One was filled with hope.
One was relieved but also contained anger.
One was empty.
Eyes that were so similiar yet different.
"Hinata-sama. I know you were the one who warned Konoha about Sound. I know you didn't want to use the branch seal against me. So please, just stop. If you turn yourself in now, I am sure your life will be spared," Neji pleaded with his cousin.
Sadness filled the once empty eyes but Hinata lowered her head to hide her eyes behind the veil of her fringe. "I can't," the words were regretful yet determined.
Behind them Uchiha Sasuke leapt onto the ground, a wary look blazing in his sharingan filled eyes. "Hinata, we better hurry." he stated.
Hinata jerked out of Neji's grasp. "I'm sorry Nii-san," she whispered apologetically, moving towards Sasuke.
Crimson eyes widened in surprise as there was the trail of chakra in the rain, a thud as a palm hit a back, a thump as a body crumpled to the ground.
Again. Three different sets of white eyes.
One was shocked.
One was filled with success.
One was content.
Crimson eyes were filled with grief as Sasuke knelt beside the fallen figure, searching for a pulse that was not there. Despite how much he wanted to, he could not ignore the fact that this was the first time he had ever seen Hinata look so content... so relaxed. Still he felt anger, the need for vengeance. Rising to his feet, he formed three handseals as his hand crackled with lightning, crimson eyes turned to the Hyuga girl but before he could even rush forward, a blow to his heart was able to stop him.
"Thank you," Hanabi breathed out.
"Hinata-sama would have wanted me to do that... to protect you. She sacrificed everything to protect you Hanabi. If it wasn't for her, I would have just let him run you through," Neji said coldly, not even adding the honorific after Hanabi's name.
Shock filled Hanabi's eyes as her mouth opened and closed as she attempted to find the right words to say.
"Just shut up and go protect Konoha. It would be pointless if Hinata-sama and Uchiha-san warned us for nothing," Neji snapped.
For one of the rare times, Hanabi was confused. Had she done the right thing?
"It's all my fault," Hanabi whispered.
"No. Thanks to you and your clan, you were able to hold back Sound until the other forces arrived. Due to that we overcame the invasion," Tsunade answered, traces of injuries on her face still visible.
"No. It's all my fault that my family is dead," Hanabi's face lifted so empty white eyes peeked out beneath strands of her hair.
At this Tsunade fell silent, unsure of what to say.
"My mother died because she gave birth to me. My father-" Hanabi begun in a hollow voice.
"The death of your father was not your fault," Tsunade said sharply, her eyes filled with pity.
"That isn't true. Because I didn't want to be cast into the Branch so Hina- Onee-sama took things into her own hands, and with my own hands, I killed my own sister," Hanabi murmured.
"Hyuga-sama," Tsunade called out, but Hanabi wasn't listening.
"It's my fault I'm all alone. It's my existence that ruin my sister's life. It is I who is the killer and not her."
Beneath the surface.
The sun was not a killer.
But instead that role.
Belonged to her sister.
A/N: This was written when I was fourteen.
2006-02-25 - Beneath published.
2006-06-16 - Beneath completed.
2011-02-13 - Slight update to replace line breaks. Story was kept in a single chapter for convenience of editing.