Flip, Flop and Fly

Disclaimer: I own only the obvious, the rest belongs to Masashi Kishimoto.

Author's Note: I could have sworn I updated this thing a mere two weeks ago. Apparently it has been five months or more. My, how time flies.

Correct version up as soon as beta finishes.

Chapter Twenty-Three

Could it really be that simple? Could the Unsub really have taken inspiration from an old and classical detective story? What did that say about the Unsub then?

This was the first time Itachi had come across books from the world he had grown up in here in these shinobi lands, and if Katai was right then there had been trade between the two – that world and this one – so it was obvious how the books had gotten here. Being an avid collector of such books, Katai would be the painfully obvious answer to being the Unsub, but Itachi didn't think so. Anyone who had read these books – and especially this compilation volume of all of Sherlock Holmes's cases – would have recognized where the inspiration was taken from. It could point to Katai never actually having read the books, or never having read this particular one yet. And according to Katai these books were rare, your average Joe wouldn't have the chance of reading it any old day of the week.

Did that mean that the Unsub was trusting that people wouldn't recognise where their inspiration had come from?

But, if that was the case, why take inspiration from a fictional mystery that no one knew about and could compare the murders to?

Did that mean that the Unsub took inspiration from the mysteries not to draw attention but because it was the first and the best way they came across to kill the victims?

There was something not quite right here.

"I need to know who has read these books." Itachi muttered to himself and got to his feet. Going out there to talk with the merchant family and the servants meant a whole lot of 'this one's and 'master Itachi's and he hated it. Gave him a friggin headache every single time. Especially Ashihei. The guy had a good head on his shoulders, but he needed to lose the 'this one'-attitude. Seriously. It would make conversing with him much more pleasant.

Exiting the library Itachi headed towards the…. Well, actually, he had absolutely no bloody idea where to go in order to find anyone. So his great plan for this involved walking around until he found someone. Or until they found him. Preferably before he turned into a skeleton. Who needed such big houses anyway?

He walked down corridors, peeked into rooms and crossed wooden walkways, but he couldn't find anyone. Not a single soul. Which was weird because he knew this big house had more servants than it needed, and he had expected Ashihei to be practically waiting outside the library doors to question Itachi the second he stepped out.

Had his presence in this house frightened the Unsub into acting?

Itachi stopped up at that, then sighed. "Friggin hell. Why does this always happen? Why? If I had a team this would never have happened! Bloody shinobi."

Proceeding with greater caution from now on he searched throughout the entire house systematically until he came to the family wing of the house. It was the muffled sounds of talking that caught his attention, and he carefully snuck in closer in hopes of hearing what was being said. The house was very old fashioned and the walls were thin and the sliding doors covered with rice paper. As soon as he got close enough it was almost painfully easy to hear what was being said.

"How could you do this?" Katai was demanding.

"How could I not? All the scraping and bowing and the 'this one's and lord knows what else! It made me sick!"

Itachi frowned. The voice was female, but it didn't sound like any of the women of the household that he had interviewed. It was a bit deeper, huskier. Almost a bit masculine.

"Did you never love us?" Ashihei cried out.

"How can one love people like you? Thinking you're all that and so much above everyone else in station, but pretending to be humble by using archaic language. Well, I have news for you, dear brother, it doesn't work. It makes you seem all the more like an idiot and a snob!"

Brother? Well, that did kind of narrow down the field. The only two sisters in the house were Toyoko and Sumiko. And Sumiko handn't spoken since the death of their parents. Her voice was bound to be a bit husky and hoarse from disuse.

"Leave her alone!" Ashihei's words were followed by sounds of desperate but hindered movement. "You get that thing away from my sister!"

"Only glad to! Here you go, darling, a gift for you."

"What have you done? It will kill her!"

"Dear brother, you said to get it away from your sister. Aren't I your sister, too?"

"I claim no kinship with you, vermin!"

Good going, Ashihei, let's piss off the dangerous person even more, yes? Itachi sighed. Well, perhaps it wasn't that bad. An incensed person was more likely to make mistakes. That meant that Itachi would have a better chance to save everyone. But how should he do this?

Be a proper Konoha shinobi and come up with some totally epic jutsu? Probably not. Itachi didn't know many offensive jutsu, and the one he knew was a grand fireball that would set everything in this house aflame and everyone would die. Not the successful end to a mission he was hoping for.

Be all sneaky-ninja and assassinate the Unsub? It had merit except he would still have to actually get inside the room. He could try to get a weapon and throw it through the flimsy sliding door, but there was too much chance of actually hitting the hostages. Again, not the best ending to a so far successful-ish mission.

'Best do what I'm best at and wing it.' He finally decided.

Now, he just needed the opportune moment to go inside.

"You will not get away with this!" Katai was saying as Itachi focused in on the conversation again. "Uchiha-san will stop you!"

"Yes, Uchiha-san. Ugh! If it hadn't been for him this would have gone off without a hitch! He arrived last night and now it's barely noon, and already he has destroyed everything and forced me to act! I expected you to contact Konohagakure and hire a shinobi, but not even I expected them to send the Konohagakure ANBU!"

What did the Konoha ANBU have to do with this? Nevermind, no time to think about it now, Itachi had just found the best moment to go inside the room. He stepped back from the door slightly, cleared his throat quietly, and then pushed open the sliding doors violently and struck a pose.

"Nobody expects the Konoha ANBU! Our chief weapon is surprise! Surprise and fear, fear and surprise and ruthless efficiency- no! Our three weapons are fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Hokage and nice, tight uniforms! Sorry, that went wrong; I'll come back in again!"

And with that said he was out of the room faster than anyone could react.

It took a moment before he heard someone chasing after him.

Itachi had no idea how many people were working together so he had to get away before he could actually take a moment to think through what he had seen inside the room. But where to hide? He looked around wildly as he ran. The rooms were too obvious and would be checked. Under the floor would have been nice but he had found no hatches or doorways that led down, nor did he know any cool jutsu that could help. So that left only one option.

A chakra powered skip and a hop later, Itachi was sticking to the ceiling and pushing away one of the panels. A heartbeat later he had crawled into the space between the ceiling and the roof, and he replaced the panel just in time to hear his pursuer round the corner and disappear down the corridor.

The space between the ceiling and the roof was barely big enough to crouch in and it was full of monstrous dust bunnies. But it was a hiding place good enough for now. It wasn't like he planned to stay here for ages.

So what had he learned when he had barged into the room?

Well, for one people made the funniest faces when they were shocked like that. If Itachi didn't know better he would say they were torn between utter shock and wondering if there was something wrong with Itachi's brain. It also meant, most likely, that the Unsub wasn't used to unexpected things suddenly happening, wasn't used to acting and changing their plan in the blink of an eye. Just look at how long it took before the Unsub chased after him. That he had managed to shock them stupid to such a degree with his unconventional entrance meant that the Unsub was new at this. Very new.

The thought made him smirk. He really was good at what he did.

The second thing he learned was that the entire household – from the baby to the very last servant – had been forced into the room, tied up and sitting on the floor. If Itachi remembered his boy scout days correctly, the knot that had been tied quite professionally. He hadn't seen exactly that knot before but it was similar enough to ones that he knew, similar enough for Itachi to be quite certain that it was almost impossible to get out of. Other than being tied up everyone had been alive.

The third thing he had seen was that Sumiko was one of the people tied up.

The Unsub had been Toyoko. The soft-spoken, sobbing wife of Katai, and mother of two. What could make a woman like that do something like this? And to children no less? One would think her motherly instincts would hinder her at least somewhat, but that didn't seem to be the case at all.

Itachi frowned. What worried him, though, was that he hadn't seen anything that could be constituted as a weapon, nothing that Ashihei could have protested being put on his sister Sumiko. The fact that he hadn't seen it could mean one of two things: either it was so small that it could be seen in a quick look through a full room, or Toyoko had taken it with her. It would be best to make sure that it hadn't stayed behind and wouldn't kill any of the hostages, though.

Grumbling about things being too troublesome, Itachi started making across the beams and back towards the room where the hostages were. He used chakra to keep himself steady as he went from beam to beam. The ceiling panels weren't strong enough to hold his weight, and besides, they creaked alarmingly. No, best tick to the sturdier beams just in case even if it was more difficult. Mentally calculating where he was compared to the layout of the house, Itachi stopped when he thought he was above the room with the hostages. He carefully and slowly lifted the corner of one of the ceiling panels and looked down into the room. The hostages were there and, if one could go by the way they acted, Toyoko wasn't in the room.

Lifting the thin, wooden panel away completely, Itachi crawled out and used chakra to stick to the ceiling. Feeling like Spiderman and ignoring the people that were now gaping at him, he made his way until he was right above Sumiko and Ashihei. He still couldn't spot the weapon whatever it was.

"Where is the weapon? What is it?" he asked quietly.

"A snake! It was a snake!" Ashihei hissed back. "It was on Sumiko right before you came in but now it's gone!"

"Did you recognise the species of snake? Did anyone see where it slithered off to?"

Everyone shook their heads.

"It was purple. With olive green stripes." Katai added helpfully.

Itachi blinked down at them. Purple with olive green stripes. Right. He was sceptical as all hell, but there was no time to argue now. He needed to get these people away from here. He crawled on and then dropped down onto the ground when there was no chance of dropping down on a hostage. Drawing a kunai from his pouch, Itachi crouched down next to Katai and started carefully cutting through the ropes that bound him.

"You work very fast, Uchiha-san. You've barely been here half a day and already things are coming to a head." Katai said.

"How did you know it was Toyoko?" Ashihei asked.

"I didn't. I hadn't gotten quite that far yet." Itachi replied.

People stared at him once more, again seeming to wonder if there was something wrong with him.

"What?" Itachi wanted to know.

"You had no idea who it was? The way you were going around, this one thought you knew everything already and were simply doing it in order to flush out the perpetrator!"

Itachi sighed and flickered Ashihei's nose. He had had quite enough of these people. "You have quite a weird view of shinobi skills. This is an investigation; I came here to investigate possible murders. I had no more information than what you gave the village when you requested a shinobi. We aren't omnipotent no matter what you think. Now, let's get out of here."

As soon Katai was free, he helped Itachi untie people, and soon Itachi stepped back and let the hostages untie each other while he went to the door and looked up and down the corridors. It was weird that Toyoko hadn't returned. Any normal bad guy would return to the hostages as soon as they lost sight of Itachi, but she hadn't. It could mean that she was setting up a trap somewhere, or it could further support his theory that she wasn't a trained shinobi or had ever been in a real battle before. Well, he corrected himself, the speed she had chased him at was definitely not normal, it was enhanced with chakra. So she had some rudimentary training in the shinobi arts, but most likely didn't have the stamina or strength to really keep up. But what did all that add up to?

"Why does your sister have shinobi training?" he turned to Ashihei when the young man walked up to him.

Ashihei blinked. "What? This one's…. my sister does not have any training whatsoever. She would have no need for it, she has no need to work a single day in her life, we have the money to provide for everyone. Why do you ask?"

Itachi looked at Katai. "Do you know anything about this training? Because she definitely has some."

"No, I…" Katai sighed and shook his head. His children were with him, the baby in his arms and the young child clinging to his pants. "I don't think she does. Well, until today I didn't think she did. I have no idea when she could have learned it either."

"Did she take a trip? Long walks? Anything like that happen?"

"Well… yes, she was always fond of long walks." Katai admitted and Ashihei nodded. "Here at this family home she would always have an escort, but I didn't think she needed that when we moved into our own house. She's a grown woman, I always figured she could take care of herself."

"Instead she ended up slightly trained and with a plan to kill you all." Itachi nodded and ignored the effect of those words, the glares and the depressed looks and the fear in the room. He was presented with another problem: how the devil was he going to get this group of fifteen people to safety? He could really use some help right now. Like that shinobi who had been sent to watch him during this investigation. Where was that person? Why hadn't they taken action while there were civilian lives at stake?

'Bloody shinobi.' He grumbled.

Being unable to instantly clone himself was a real disadvantage when your team was a one-man team, and you were it, Itachi reflected with a comical pursing of his lips. He briefly wondered if the shinobi had some way of cloning themselves, and privately promised himself to check it out the second he got back to Konoha, then focused on the task at hand: getting everyone to safety and apprehending Toyoko and whatever snake-weapons she was using.

Itachi looked at the hostages. "So this is how we're going to do it: you guys will be very silent and take the back way out of the house and the gardens and run like all hell down towards the village. I'll do a quick search through the house for Toyoko and either confront her or follow you to make sure she doesn't attack you while you flee. Be wary of snakes and tall grass." He didn't leave any room for arguing.

And apparently that was the way to go, for everyone listened to him and filed out and away in two neat, practically silent lines.

Itachi was rather impressed, he had expected flock mentality and panic to have them running like headless chickens straight towards danger. Well, he wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth and stood there waiting until he couldn't hear the escapees move about anymore, then headed in the opposite direction. Using chakra to speed himself up, he had soon searched throughout half the house and decided that it would be best to go outside and shout a challenge. Certainly would be faster, especially if he included some good old fashioned insulting and 'yo momma's.

As it turned out he didn't have to do that at all for Toyoko stood in the middle of the courtyard and was obviously waiting for him.

"You have ruined everything!" Toyoko almost shrieked the second she spotted Itachi.

"What have I ruined?"

"The plan! His plan!"

There was a 'his' here too? Who the hell would this 'his' be anyway?

"His plan was perfect until you showed up! You ruined it!" she threw herself at him, attacking him head on and with some chakra powering her movements.

Itachi yelped and hurriedly scrambled out of the way. His leg caught hers, she stumbled and fell to the ground. Toyoko rolled to break her fall, unfortunately Itachi didn't. Tripping Toyoko up had tripped up himself, he flailed with his arms and fell over right onto her. Toyoko screamed 'rape' and swung at him. Itachi managed to roll off of her just in time to avoid being bit by a snake that had shot out of her sleeve.

He rolled to his knees and stared wide-eyed at the snake that now hissed angrily at him. It was about a metre long, coloured in a mottled pattern of various shades of green, and Itachi really had no idea where the hell she could have kept the damn thing.

"I see even someone like you fears his snakes!" Toyoko grinned and held out her other arm. Another snake – this ones with a weird orange pattern – slid out of her sleeve. It had to be over two metres long and it started circling Itachi in the opposite direction of the green snake. "Here you go, another one for you to play with. And while you're busy I will go and have another chat with my family."

Because of the snakes circling him at a surprisingly quick speed, making fake lunges at him, Itachi could only stay still and watch as Toyoko went through the house and towards the back. If she used chakra to speed herself up then it wouldn't take her long to catch up with the fleeing people. Toyoko wasn't very well trained compared to the shinobi Itachi had met and seen in Konoha, but compared to her family and all the servants then she was way above their level. If she could pull any other tricks out of her sleeves – literally speaking – then they would be dead. It would be a massacre.

Turning his attention back to the circling snakes, Itachi stared at him. They were still circling him in opposite directions, still making fake lunges and hissing threateningly. Itachi wasn't a snake expert, but he was pretty certain that normal snakes didn't act like this at all. It had to be some sort of shinobi art. Toyoko hadn't made any hand signs that Itachi had seen, so he didn't think the snakes were created from a run-of-the-mill jutsu – was that even possible? It didn't seem possible to simply force ones chakra into a shape and make it living. Chakra needed constant flow as far as Itachi knew and from what he had experienced.

That meant that the snakes had to come from somewhere else. There was no place in Toyoko's clothes to hide snakes, and people would have noticed hissing anyway. Besides, as noted earlier, these snakes weren't acting normal at all. As far as Itachi could understand it meant only one thing: the snakes had been summoned, probably with that summoning technique thingy that the shopkeeper had briefly mentioned before Itachi left Konoha.

'They were probably summoned by this 'he' person she kept mentioning. Summoning live things has to take a lot of energy and chakra, and Toyoko has less chakra than me.' He thought to himself as he watched the two snakes.

How the hell was he to deal with two snakes that were probably shinobi-influenced in some way or other, and who probably could tear him apart in the flick of an eye?

Somehow screaming like a little girl and running in the opposite direction didn't seem like quite the thing to do right now.

"I don't suppose you two would be willing to simply let me go, would you?" he asked the snakes, then yelped when the orange one lunged at him. Itachi rolled out of the way, only to have to suddenly change direction in order to avoid the second, green snake. During the roll he bumped a hand against his shins and cut it up slightly on the senbon needles hidden inside the bandages. In the same movement he grabbed the needle tip and pulled it free. A moment later Itachi stuffed it point-first into the green snake's mouth and up into its brain, and it disappeared in a puff of smoke. The second snake launched itself at him, literally jumping off the ground and flashing orange in the sun, and Itachi reacted and threw the needle at it. The snake writhed and hissed as it was pinned to the ground on its back, the needle piercing straight through its throat. It disappeared a second later in a bigger puff of smoke.

Staring from the bleeding puncture wound on his thumb from how he had held the needle when he threw it, and the two disappearing and dissipating puffs of smoke, Itachi blinked stupidly and wondered what the hell just happened. It had all gone so fast, he had reacted so instinctively, and he had somehow managed to survive this.

"Right. Alive. Heh." He muttered and picked up the senbon needle with the same care one would pick up a ticking bomb, and looked at it for a second. Then he shook his head. "Save the people first and then have a mental breakdown and think over things. I can do that. Right."

He got to his feet and jumped up onto the roof of the house to get a better view of things.

At the edge of the vast gardens he could see a snake even bigger than the ones he had met before. It had a body as thick as a tree and it was extremely long, the kind of snake people had nightmares about, and it was lunging at Ashihei and Katai who were blocking its way. Toyoko stood on top of the snake and directed it. She didn't seem too much in a hurry to actually get past Ashihei and Katai and chase after the fleeing staff of her former household.

Senbon needles were useless at this distance and with such a large snake. Itachi let the needle drop and drew one of the kunai from the pouch on his thigh. He looked down at it, shifted his grip and tried to remember what Sasuke and Hinata had said about holding and throwing the kunai, aimed and with a bit of chakra enhancement in his arm, threw the first kunai as hard as he could. The first was followed by three others. As he had already experienced the bigger the snake the harder it was to make it go puff and disappear in smoke, and Itachi couldn't aim all over the place either since he had to be careful not to accidentally hurt Ashihei and Katai. So he aimed for the thick coils of the tail and hoped for the best.

The kunai all hit their target, but they only served to anger the snake. It hissed in fury and whirled around, mouth open and fangs dripping with poison that corroded anything it touched.

"Kill him!" Toyoko shrieked from atop the snake. It covered the distance between them at an alarming speed for something so big. "He ruins his plans! Kill him!"

Itachi drew another kunai, one with an exploding tag attached from the pouch on his hip, but the snake was already there and swung at him. Itachi jumped up, was caught by the snake's nose and sent flying, and lost the exploding tag kunai mid flight. He rolled when he landed, but it still hurt like all hell and he gasped for breath. Before he could move an inch the coils of the snake had surrounded him completely, and were pinning down his legs and one of his hands. Open jaws as wide as Itachi was tall and fangs dripping with poison were bearing down on him.

There was no time to think and yet everything seemed to go in slow motion.

Itachi reacted.

Hand signs performed with one hand and a deep breath and…

"Katon: Goukakyuu no Jutsu!"

XXIII

There, done. Sorry it took so long to update.

Ye of little faith! You think I throw this arc in just to make it boring for you? Haha! My evil master plan has not yet been figured out!

And apparently I need to work harder at making mysteries if all of you managed to figure it out.

Thanks to:

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