INFERNO:

Chapter Five

Neither of the two slept that night. Itachi and Hinata had sat across from each other on the dirt ground, both completely rigid (except for putting their clothes back on) and silent until the morning came. Hinata kept gingerly rubbing the brand on her arm, wincing every time she did so and fighting back the tears that threatened to pour out of her eyes. Now she was trapped, committed, to carrying out the mission assigned to her by the evil man. Even she wasn't stupid enough to try and run from him.

Hinata chanced a look at the dark-haired man but quickly looked away when she realized that his red eyes were locked on her. Maybe it wasn't the best idea to run off with some stranger into the middle of the woods where he demanded you to get naked and later stabbed your skin with a white-hot piece of metal. But his promise…his promise to make her stronger was too enticing to resist. Hinata knew that if she could go through with the mission assigned by him, as horrible as it was, she would indeed gain immense strength.

"I wonder if they've started to panic," Itachi said with the slightest hint of amusement in his voice.

Hinata frowned slightly at his comment, but remained silent, staring at the ground. He was talking about the village. Were they aware that she was gone yet? And if so, would they have sent help? Hinata was almost relieved at the thought, but immediately kicked it out of her mind.

'No! I don't need help! I will get through this! I will!'

Itachi cocked his head slightly. "Homesick?"

Hinata shook her head. "Not a bit," she lied.

"Are you wondering about the person you're too…murder?"

"I-I guess."

The man across from her stood up. "You won't know, Hinata-sama, until our training is further along." He gestured to her before turning on his heel and walking away from the remains of the campfire. "Come."

Hinata quickly attempted to stand up before she was overcome by a wave of vertigo. She plopped back down on the ground, feeling dizzy and realizing that she hadn't slept nor eaten for two days straight. She shook her head and stood up slowly this time before following Itachi.

'I wonder if he'll even let me eat…'

The two stopped in front of a large bush a few meters away, and Itachi bent down to move some of its branches to the side. Hinata suppressed a squeal when he revealed a group of kittens and an adult cat cuddling together in a small hole in the middle of the bush; she had always wanted a kitten.

"They're-they're so cute!" Hinata blurted out.

Itachi grinned. "You like?"

"Of course!" Hinata reached past him and gently picked up a black kitten with white spots from the litter, who blinked its wide eyes sleepily and mewed, positively making the girl's heart melt.

"Is he your favorite?" Itachi asked quietly.

Hinata glanced at him. The look in his eyes…the smirk on his face…he was up to something. She held the tiny ball of fur protectively against her chest, feeling its small heart beating.

"I like them all," she whispered, staring at him and feeling an almost fierce sense of motherhood over the small spotted cat and its family.

Silence once again overcame the two before Itachi dug into his holster and pulled out a kunai. "Don't get too attached," he said, his grin widening.

Hinata transferred her gaze to the life-taking piece of metal and after a few seconds, realization hit her. Her eyes widened as her arms tightened around the baby animal, who was starting to squirm and meow quietly.

"N-No…" She said, backing away from him. "I…there's no way I can!"

"You agreed to kill a human," Itachi said nonchalantly, standing up off the ground, the morning sun glinting off the weapon in his hand. "But how can you do that if you can't even kill a damn cat?"

Despite her inner protests not to cry, tears started to well up in Hinata's milky eyes as she used her arms to shield the kitten as much as possible from the malicious, horrible man. "There's no reason to!" She began rather shrilly, visions of the animal in her arms being torn to shreds and its tiny organs spilling out of its split stomach. "Killing a person who's done you wrong is one thing, but killing an innocent animal is another!"

"Do it, Hinata-sama," Itachi said between gritted teeth as he shoved the kunai into one of her hands.

Hinata hesitated for a fraction of a second before throwing it on the ground, feeling more cornered with each passing second. The kitten continued to meow in her arms, louder this time, and seeming desperate to go back to it's mother and siblings.

Itachi glared at her and before Hinata knew it he was grabbing her by the shoulders and shaking her roughly, eventually causing her to lose her grip on the kitten. She gasped quietly as it ran back inside the bush, and even though she herself could've been in peril, she prayed silently that it had made it's way to safety.

Itachi, irritated at her lack of attention towards him, grabbed her face and started to shake her head. "Do as I say, Hinata-sama!"

"No!" She screamed, and the dizziness she had experienced before was coming back much more severely.

"Yes!"

"NO!"

And with her last ounce of strength, she lifted her hand and slapped Itachi across his beautiful face. The man, obviously shocked at her action, let his arms drag away from her face as he gently touched his own, not taking his eyes off of the panting girl.

"That…was very, very brave of you, Hinata-sama," he breathed, his eyes turning to slits.

Hinata remained quiet and brushed away the tears from her eyes. There was no way she would forgive herself for taking the life of a creature that was so innocent. She would rather be punished by Itachi than murder a baby cat. He thought he could control her, but there were some things that even she wouldn't stand for.

'Hopefully you're safe now, kitty…' She thought.

As was usual for that morning, an overwhelming silence shrouded the two before Itachi stopped rubbing his face and smiled. The words that came out of his mouth next shocked Hinata, and she even wondered if she heard him right:

"Congratulation's. You passed the first part of your training."


Back in Konoha, people were just starting to notice that the village was one person short…