Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
"Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell."- - Macbeth
HEADFIRST INTO TEMPTATION
(NOTHING IS SET IN STONE)
Ino was bored.
She lazily surveyed her surroundings as well as the individuals seated at the table. All which were too familiar.
Funny, she thought twirling one of her extremely sharp tracking knives, you would think a congregation in Hell with it's most deadly residents would be more exciting than this, at least more eventful. It was truly out of boredom as resumed a practice she had not done since her first days in the fiery depths. She reclined against her hard chair as she began to, once more, take in each beautiful face, some with great reluctance, others with a smirk.
First up on her list of familiar, and rather redundant, observations was the notoriously emotionless drone that was Sai.
Sai was pale-skinned and dark haired. Truthfully he bore a distinct resemblance to the Uchiha brother's, despite having no relation of kin to them. Interestingly enough, Sai's eyes always falshed for the briefest millisecond when he was compared to either brother. Sai might as well been related to them, Ino thought, what with all that cold, stoic attitude. Still, Ino could somewhat put up with the intimidating (psycho) personalities of the Uchiha siblings better than she could put up with Sai.
Sure, he smiled more and smirked less than his Hellion "relatives", but Ino felt, no knew, that he was fabricating every outward emotion, or at least the ones he cared to show to them. And after a human life time of deciet Ino despised fabrication in any form. Look where it got her? So she opted for the blunt, if tactless, truth instead.
Her eyes skimmed over him quickly to the equally bored looking Kankuro.
Sabaku no Kankuro was Sai's opposite. He was tall, muscular, with tanned skin and dark emerald eyes. He was also her closest companion in this world, making it seem less hellish (no pun intended) by just being Kankuro. Even though he was a thrill seeker and stubborn as hell, he was far cunning then he let on. And whether she liked it or not, Kankuro had her back. Whether it was on the battlefield or in her complicated life, he was just always there. Their relationship was somewhat strange given the existing animosity between her and his brother and her extreme dislike towards his sister.
But Kankuro was…….. different.
He was more enteertaining than any of her comrades and his presence was insistent, a forced constant. He turned his head and caught her gaze, shooting her a familiar rough grinand she returned it easily. Without even talking Ino asked silently when he thought it would end. Kankuro shrugged sympathetically at her. She sighed and moved over in her round of observations.
Sabaku no Gaara.
Her observation was briefer that his brother's. Just as handsome, if not more so, but decidingly less humorous and much, much more cold. His attitude was as much in in contrast to his brother as their looks were. His sea-foam green eyes were sharp as he took in the prolonged stuttering message relayed by the herald. Stoic as always, she thought scornfully, glaring at him. She looked away before she could catch his eye by accident. Even 5 years later, it was still too soon.
Automatically she skipped over to Tenten and immersed herself in thoughts concerning the brunette. One of the only high-ranking women in Hell, Tenten was, as usual, holding a weapon in her hands. Ino watched in mild fascination as she twirled it absentmindedly as she listened to their leader, though she did it with such skill that it made you wonder is she wasn't only paying half a mind. She was without a doubt, the most skilled weapons user in Hell. And when Hell was filled with master assassins, that was saying something.
In fact Ino's own knifes had been made by her, as well as all her other weaponry. It was sharp and its craftsmen ship impeccable. Tenten rarely made weapons for others, unless ordered by Itachi. Not much was known about her except she was here because of a love match gone wrong. Tenten was usually level-tempered, even sweet, but she was a keen observer and she could be unsettled by anything she classified as unworthy. She had a wicked sense of humor along with a strong dislike for all things overly feminine.
Thus including Sakura.
Ah, Sakura. Ino's eyes narrowed as she eyed her sulking position. How shall I describe you with mere words, Ino thought. Hateful, conceited bitch just doesn't do you justice.
Sakura listened reluctantly, though attentively, to the messenger while shooting glances at the pure-blooded Hell-borns every now and then. Of course, Ino sneered, she's pissed that she couldn't sit next to her beloved Sasuke-kun. Ino and Zabuza sat in between her and her reluctant, brooding prize. It made Ino gleeful to know that she got in the way of her conspicuous affections. Yes, irking Sakura was her greatest joy.
Oh, she was skilled enough, but, Ino thought with disdain, but she was too emotional. Like she never grew out of her teenage years, she couldn't sperate personal from proffessional. Scary thing was, Ino used to be like her, might have still been if it hadn't been for Cell 10 and Ibiki. But even then, I was tougher. I just got pissed and showed it. Despite Sakura's high status among the council she had to constantly be reined in.
Not that Ino could really talk since she was always testing the boundaries as well, but her's were due to a yearning for freedom. Ino rebelled and Sakura chased. She subtly chased Itachi, but she had a soft spot for Sasuke as well. And she hated Ino because the Uchiha's favored her. But considering their cold, calculating, ruthless personalities, that might not have been a good thing. Either way she despised her immensely and the feeling was wholly returned.
Again hateful, conceited bitch does not do her justice. It was worth angering Sakura, despite having to sit next to her. But alas, Ino thought remorsefully, all things have a price.
On Ino's other side was Zabuza. Blunt, ruthless, gruff and cunning he clashed with not only Ino, but with everyone seated at one point or another. He tolerated her for the most part. Probably for her bluntness and honesty, she supposed, but he preferred to work alone.
Zabuza had been a mercenary in his days among the living and held no mercy for the living or the dead. He had no partners and trusted no one. According to rumor however, there was one in Purgatory, a neutral being that he trusted. Haku or something, Ino remembered. Strange, but it didn't really concern her anyways. He was a talented bounty hunter and cooperated well, when forced. He held a grudging respect for his equals and others at his skill levels. And he held an intense animosity for those who needed to be dealt with often.
Thus Sakura was on his list of annoyances. One of Ino's fondest memories was when he ass kicked Sakura for bitching too much. Dark eyes, no eyebrows, and a wrapped mouth, he was intimidating, Ino admitted silently. She moved to the last two faces. The most handsome, but also most dangerous members.
The younger Uchiha.
Like his brother he was light complected, but possessed blue-black hair and gray eyes so dark they appeared to be obsidian most of the time. The only time you could see that they were gray were when he was truly shocked, which didn't happen that often, or when you got into kissing distance, which didn't happen to often either.
Sasuke was more prone to anger than his brother and seemingly more dangerous. Almost none could surpass him in skill and he was immune to many killing methods, even Sakura's patented Touch of Death. He was a purebred Hellion, raised and born into the underworld. (Ino was still in the dark as to the mechanics of that) He listened to only his brother and even then Sasuke had a tendency to ignore all but the most imperative orders. Even though he was inapproachable, Sakura wasn't easily dissuaded.
Ino knew better than to think of Sasuke in a way other than cheap, albeit sincere, appreciation. Also Ino's last romance ended sour, so that alone was enough of a put off. Sakura wasn't dim. She was actually pretty smart in an annoying, scheming way. Sasuke found her insufferable. And thus Ino had a great respect for him, but she still found his assholing ways annoying. She skimmed over him, her eyes resting on the last, most powerful, hell master. She surpressed a shiver.
Itachi listened stoically to the stuttering messenger, his eyes were, as usual, calculating. Seated at the center, in an imposing height, Uchiha Itachi oozed absolute authority and was the only person in hell who inspired fear in her.
He was more detached and apathetic than his younger brother. Although Sasuke was seemingly more dangerous, she knew that it was Itachi to fear. Sasuke showed his rage for all to see and he didn't hide his wrath, but Itachi showed nothing. He held his anger in and released it at the most calculating moment in devestating blows. He was the worse of two evils.
Ino knew firsthand since she aided in the revolution that had taken place in hell only a year earlier, when they over threw Orochimaru. Ino preferred to stay out of his way since she thought he was a psychotic mother fucker (and told him so), but he enlisted her into his council despite her complaints. Plus, he had said later, she was amusing, Ino rolled her eyes as she caught sight of Tenten, who seemed to be contemplating whether or not to spear the herald, who was taking longer than usual to convey the message. Ino nodded eagerly, leaning forward from her unmercifully hard chair.
Tenten grinned slightly, but before the metal could fly Itachi cleared his throat quietly.
All at once every member was attentive, including herself. When Itachi spoke, you listened. Or else. And they had all seen the or else happen to Tobi. And he was a good boy. But maybe that was the problem. This was hell. There was no room for good people in Hell.
"What exactly are you trying to say?" Itachi asked after making sure he had every one's attention, coolly regarding the messenger with his unnervingly calm, truly black, grayless eyes.
"Well," he stuttered out, "What's going on is that-they-I meant-"
Tenten's knife was embedded into the black wall behind him. Only one centimeter away from his neck. Clearly thrown as a warning.
"The only reason we keep you is so you can relay messages and you can't even do that? Useless," she muttered, reaching for another knife and preparing to let it fly, this time for sure hitting it's mark.
The herald visibly panicked. Tenten's accuracy was famed throughout Hell. "No I-"
"Tenten," Itachi said quietly, his voice barely above whisper level. Nonetheless it was enough to make Tenten sheath her weapon reluctantly. She continued to watch the stuttering man/boy with unmasked impatience and disdain. She fingered the sheath dangerously.
"I would hurry," Itachi advised his tone still frigid as always. "As you can see my subordinates are getting impatient. As am I."
The carrier gulped and began to relay his message once more, surprisingly his voice much clearer. Strange, Ino mused, what fear can do to people. "According to your contacts, my lord," he added hastily. "Purgatory is worried that your role will cause disruption and as you know, they are already preparing for your upsurping should any chaos happed."
So that's why he was nervous, Ino mused, he didn't want to be the bearer of bad news, but really who did want to inform Itachi of something that might displease him greatly.
Itachi showed no expression other than one of calm speculation.
He made a dismissive gesture for him to leave. The herald jumped at the chance. Twas not meant to be however, as one slim metallic piece soared through the air with deadly precision, hitting its target. A long, thin, senbon needle protruded from his neck. His dark eyes were still open from shock, and then he promptly disintegrated into black ashes. All that was left was a small pile on the polished floor. They stared at her in exasperation. Itachi heaved a sigh, no doubt over the used to be clean floor.
"He was taking too long," she replied to their unasked question, shrugging. "If he was killed that easily, he was weak and we don't need any weak burdens."
He sighed and shook his head, "There goes another herald lost to your temper, between you and Sasuke we won't have any left."
"They were impudent," Sasuke said sullenly, his arms crossed.
"Everyone who doesn't bow down to you is considered impudent Sasuke," Ino rolled her eyes. He glared at her, but said nothing.
"What about the Herald?" Sakura asked. "It took us a month to be able to train one who wouldn't shit his pants when he saw us." She smirked. "Not that he didn't have good reason to."
"Okay. Anyways, what are we going to do about our problem?" Kankuro asked, changing the subject before Sakura could kick up a fuss. She had gotten in a bad rift with Tenten when she lost to Tenten in a sword fight and couldn't let it go, especially since it had been during a hell-wide tournament where her embarrassment had been public.
"Well we will have to disperse their fear," Gaara commented in a monotone from his position. He, however, despite entering the conversation, held an uninterested expression. His sea-foam green eyes diverted from Itachi, focusing on somewhere else. Or rather someone else. Thankfully (or not) Sakura spoke up, inadverantly saving Ino from taking the chance of meeting Gaara's eyes.
"And how do you propose we do that?" Sakura questioned in an innocently curious tone. Everyone knew from experience that her true intentions were far from pure. "What do you have in mind for us to do? Play nice?"
Gaara's eyes shifted and he pierced her with a deadly glare, strong enough to make a hardened demon crap his pants. To her credit though, she did not flinch right away, but glared back at him. Gaara raised a nonexistent eyebrow. A sign, for anyone with a serious sense of self preservation to back down. Before a blood bath could ensue Zabuza spoke up.
He hated melodramatics.
"Idiot girl," he rumbled. "Playing nice would merely make them suspicious. They thrive on the balance, and the balance requires to act like ourselves, and let the angels play the harp."
"I knew that," Sakura began hotly. "But he-"
"Was merely pointing out a necessity," Zabuza finished harshly. "None of us are stupid enough to try that so insinuating that our intelligence is inferior to yours is insulting. You are no smarter than us and much more impulsive."
Oh yes Zabuza was in her good graces.
"Not to mention emotionally dependant," Tenetn added cheerfully, also like Ino, reveling in making Sakura angry.
"Gaara-san has more experience in dealing with adversaries," Sai said before she could reply to Tenten's well placed jab.
"So do I!" she snapped back, her hair falling out of place and her attractive features narrowed.
"Crudely hacking enemies is not the most effective method," Sasuke commented dryly, from his seat next to his brother. Lounging as he watched the proceedings.
"But Sasuke-kun," Sakura pouted, her features transforming at once. Ino rolled her eyes. "I do not crudely hack." At this Ino had to release a snort. Sakura turned to glare at her, her angry look back in full force.
"You track with grace of a drunken stroke and you have the stealth of stampeding elephants," Ino said sweetly, clasping her hands in an angelic manner for emphasis. Clearly mocking Sakura, which the rosette quickly noticed.
Sakura half rose from her chair, her full mouth closed in a snarl, "You bi-"
"Children," Itachi interrupted, his voice coldly amused, "Let us return to the task at hand."
Ino shrugged and relaxed, leaning back into her chair. Sakura glared, but complied and returned to her seat reluctantly. They continued to eyes each other with undisguised distaste, but they said nothing.
"Good," he said after a full two minutes passed without attempted mutilation. "Let's try fighting the enemy instead of each other."
Sakura answered quickly with a firm "Yes, Itachi-san." Ino nodded stiffly and only long enough for him to see.
"Hm," he pondered out loud, ignoring their reluctance or hidden (not really) disgust, knowing a lost cause when he saw one and instead thought on the current situation. "They worry that I may be a threat to them."
"Well it's not like their wrong," Ino muttered loud enough for him to hear her.
He smirked. "True," he conceded. "But their alertness will make it harder for us to strike. Zabuza is correct that abruptly changing our attitude will likely cause even more suspicion. No, what we need is a distraction."
"What kind of distraction?' Sai questioned, not out of real curiosity, but out of the necessity for a successful operation. That was what Sai was trained to do and to do that he needed specifics.
"One that will keep them occupied so long, we will be able to set our plan in action," Itachi easily replied.
"It would have to be dire," Gaara commented stoically once again. "To keep them occupied for so long."
"But how would we manage that?" Tenten asked, her tone serious now and her eyes gaining that mad gleam she got right before a fight. Her brown eyes were shrewd still. "They are neutral. They know everything, to keep the balance they say. They can go into either heaven or hell, chances are they would eventually catch on, most likely before our plans can get far enough that it wouldn't matter if they know or not."
"Not unless we strike them first instead of going for our angelic counterparts," Sasuke interjected.
"But Purgatory has maintained the balance for many millennia. They are strong and attacking them at once would be foolish," Sai countered his look-a-like.
"Who said we would attack them at once?" Sasuke flung back, then leaned back and looked at his older brother's face. "One is all we need and one is all it takes to crumble their forces."
There was a brief contemplative silence concerning this powerful thought. Ino almost rolled her eyes at Sasuke's smug expression directed at Sai. Male ego at it's best. Ino shook her head amused and then proceeded to snap it in the direction of the new voice.
"But their too unified," Kankuro pointed out. "The chances of us getting one on their own without alerting the others is slim. And if we try and draw one out, we will most likely fail and instead draw unnecessary suspicion. And even if we did succeed in luring and abducting one, the finger will still be pointed in our direction." An unlikely and rare insight into the unique mind of Sabaku no Kankuro.
"I forget who you are sometimes," Ino commented, her chin tucked into a slim hand.
"It's just one of my many attractive attributes," he grinned, dropping his serious face. "All of which you're familiar with."
Ino grinned back. Bantering with Kankuro was always fun. Besides everyone here was too used to their flirting to even care. "In your dreams," she retorted, "None of which I'd waste on you by the way."
"Oh, you're just in denial about your overwhelming attraction to me," Kankuro said dismissively, waving a large hand. "I have that effect on females."
"I bet you do," Ino smirked back. His eyes sparkled with amusement as he opened his mouth to reply and was met with instead a cold interruption.
Well, almost no one minded.
"Could you save your flirting for later? We have business to address," Gaara cut into their teasing. Ino stiffened.
Almost immediately there was a reaction from everyone.
Kankuro winced, Itachi tilted his head looking vaguely interested and made no move to stop this would-be confrontation, completely passive to the matter instead. Sakura looked on in anticipation, Tenten's eyes shifted between them, Zabuza leaned on his katana, intrigued, while Sasuke and Sai merely looked on. They all knew how volatile Ino could be and she was nothing short of confrontational. She surprised them however.
"Fine," she retorted, her voice equally chilled as his. "We don't have to lure him to get him out in the open. Purgatory runs checks on future members, right? We aren't the only ones who hold a grudge, there are plenty of dicks on Earth who are angered at their constant interfering. Purgatory will crush people ruthlessly if it means keeping the balance and people hold grudges."
Kankuro and Tenten let out a sigh of relief, though Tenten's was a bit regretful, she did like a good fight. Sakura blinked in disappointment. The rest, more stoic ones, merely returned to the discussion without any fuss.
"Each member runs checks at one point. They trade off. So which one are we aiming for?" Zabuza rumbled, as always disconcerted with other's problems and straight to the point. "I personally wouldn't mind taking a crack at Kakashi."
It was a known fact that he and Kakashi had unfinished business from their days among the living.
Back when Zabuza was a living breathing mercenary he was assigned a new kill and Kakashi happened to be playing bodyguard. It had been an evenly fought fight for the majority, but in the end Kakashi emerged victor. His last strike was the cause of Zabuza's death, but he took Kakashi down with him. Even though they both ended up dead, Kakashi had bested the deadly Momochi Zabuza for the first time. But despite his grudge, Zabuza was not blind to their need. Kakashi was a valuable and experienced member of Purgatory's Council. His disappearance would certainly cause discord amongst them.
Itachi didn't give it a second thought. "No," he replied breezily. Zabuza let out a soft growl.
"Why not?" Tenten countered, unusually coming to his aid. "It sort of makes sense. Kakashi is powerful and they need him."
"But they are equally powerful and the question should be on who is more valuable," Itachi amended in a condescending manner. "The more important they are, the more chaos will take place, and from there confusion. And that confusion will give us an opportunity."
"Then who?" Sakura asked, her arms crossed and brow furrowed. "Jiriaya is the most important," she said logically. "But he's too heavily guarded."
"No not him. Someone more important," Itachi replied, his eyes taking a familiar gleam as he continued his calculations.
"Who the hell is more important to them than their leader?" Sakura inquired, bewildered and Ino reluctantly had to agree. Who was more important than someone who shared the same awe-inspiring status as Itachi?
"The Nara," he murmured. "He is more valuable."
If Ino had water in her mouth she would have spit it out. "Nara," she repeated barely refraining from stuttering. "Nara Shikamaru?"
Ino frantically tried to think of an excuse. "But why?" she asked finally, unable to come up with anything better, though at the very least her voice sounded somewhat normal.
"Because they need him more," Sasuke answered instead, turning to Itachi. "Right Itachi?"
He nodded and explained in monotone. "Nara is smart. The most intelligent and knowledgeable one there. Even if we didn't take him he would prove to be the most cumbersome one. He will figure out our plans much faster than his comrades would and then the game would be up. If we take him however, they will have no inkling of who or what is happening to them. And this time their cleverest detective won't be there to help solve the puzzle."
"But wouldn't they just confront us sooner?" Sai inquired, Ino hastily sent him a silent thank you, momentarily forgetting her distaste for him.
"They couldn't afford to do that," Sasuke replied, instead of his brother. "Their equality is one of their strengths, but it's also a weakness, one that we should exploit. Without every member there they can't go for a confrontation. They will be scrambling to find him. This will force their attentions off us and if we play our cards right, all their leads will set them up for a long pursuing fool's errand."
Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, SHIT! Ino cussed to herself. The points made sense and she could think of no retorts or arguments to them.
"He will also prove useful for the second stage," Itachi mused, then smirked before proceeding to explain to his subordinates.
"You know it has been my intent to storm Heaven," he began, "But we've always been faced with problems. Their council, also compromised of 9 associates, has kept us out. Their combined power has held the gates of heaven closed. Effectively shutting us out, and even before that, any attempts would have been intercepted by Purgatory. Of course only at their full strength. This kills two birds with one stone."
"But how does this get us through the gates?" Ino managed to come up with a counter at last.
"We will keep the Nara intact," he stated. Ino inwardly released a sigh of relief, but continued to listen. Itachi's plans were rarely merciful. He always did something for a reason and the reason was probably not good.
"But why?" Kankuro echoed her earlier question. Ino felt the rare urge to slap him. "If he gets out, then they will know for sure, and there's a possibility that might happen, him being a genius and all."
He doesn't know him, he doesn't know him, Ino chanted to herself, he doesn't know him like I do.
"He won't and even if he does our plans will be too far set in action. We need him alive (somewhat) for his aura." If they weren't seasoned and matured demons, at least one of them would have let out a, "Huh?" Of course none of them did, they had reputations to protect and sounding like a clueless idiot wouldn't help those hard attained reputations.
"His aura will help us get into Heaven." Oh that was clear.
"Could you stop being so cryptic," Ino snapped at him. Her impatience and rare worry were wearing down on her already thin tolerance.
"Yes could you?" Sasuke surprisingly agreed with her. Usually he was in the loop, even if his brother didn't say anything, since they thought similarly so there was a good chance this was out of the usual, even for Itachi. "If we steal his aura to gain passage, it is only enough for one. And alone, whoever it is will be subdued quickly due to numbers and instead we will end up being one council member short."
Itachi smirked at them both, hands on each armrest, looking very much like a king with a superiority complex. Which in a way, he was. "You fail to see the bigger picture," he admonished.
"Well then please enlighten us," Ino snapped once again, her hands curled into fists, gripping the hilt of her weapon hard.
"We will use his aura not to storm in, but to disguise," Itachi responded loftily.
"Your words ring with clarity," she spat out, sarcasm painfully evident.
He sighed, almost like a parent who chided a teenager for not thinking things all the way through. "Then let me word this differently. Even if we capture one of Purgatory, how will we take down the gates? We'll have used up his aura just to make it up there and our demonic presence will continue to close the door on us."
"I don't know. How?" Ino asked impatiently.
"Oh come now, Ino. Think. What holds the gates closed to us?"
She forced herself to relax forcefully, breathing deeply as she turned the words over in her head. "The Council of Heaven hold the gates," she repeated dully. "Their combined strength. So to get in we would have to take out at least one." He nodded with cold satisfaction.
There was some apprehension amongst them and Itachi noticed. "Like our attack on Purgatory, taking out one member is necessary in order for us to gain passage."
"We'd have to make the chosen advisor fall from grace," Gaara correctly guessed.
"And this council is made up mainly of males. And up there almost all the males are stronger. So how do you make a male angel fall from grace?"
"By getting them to betray the rest of heaven," Sakura answered readily. Ino paid her no heed, the wheels in her head turning rapidly.
"And how does one betray?" he asked with exaggerated simplicity.
"By associating with the enemy," Zabuza rumbled, though his voice was less careless. He seemed more tense now. Not for the task ahead, but maybe out of worry. For that Haku guy, Ino thought quickly before mentally hitting herself for getting distracted.
"And who is the enemy in this case?" he asked with the same mock simplicity. All at once it clicked.
"You want to steal his aura so we can hide our demonic presence from the angel and get him to turn traitor without knowing for mere association with us," Ino mulled over out loud, then thought of the next most probable step. "And once that happens…………."
"He'll be banished to earth till his trial and they won't be able to contact him in time if we strike then," Sai finished. "And in the frenzy over Nara's disappearance no one will notice the imposter. And in all the chaos they won't have enough power to stop us. And then Heaven will be our conquest."
There was an astonished silence.
While this plan and victory were awe-inspiring they weren't only silent for that reason. Mutiny was disgusting, even to them. This may sound hypocritical coming from a bunch of demons who overthrew their last leader, but that had been due solely to the fact that they had been back stabbed first. Killing off your subordinates to gain their abilities was hardly a loyal thing to do. But the point was that they had a choice. There is a choice in choosing to betray and you choose to do it.
But to turn traitor without having a say? To betray your comrades without knowing? Harsh, but then again, they weren't angels. Not by a long shot.
"But who? Which advisor?" Kankuro spoke up at last breaking their contemplative reverie.
"The Hyuuga," he answered readily, as if he had this all in mind since before he was informed by the herald, but Ino didn't doubt that there was a chance he might've come up with it before. He did overthrow one of the most cunning and ruthless lords that Hell ever had the misfortune (or fortune, depending on how you view it) to see. Most were startled, with good reason, Ino herself included, but Tenten seemed stiffer than most.
She wondered why.
"But they say he's the most disciplined one, it'll be hard to make him fall," Kankuro stated bluntly. There was a brief murmur of agreement. They had all heard rumors of the Hyuuga and treated him with the wary respect one gives to a worthy rival. Tenten however still kept her face strangely blank.
"True," Itachi ceded, "But he has more of a dark side than the others. Getting him to screw a demon might be easier. Especially if he doesn't know who it is, or what he's doing."
"Screw?!" Tenten repeated loudly, her voice sounding strangely close to cracking. "I thought it was just to associate. Do you want to lead him completely to ruin?" Something in Tenten's voice sounded... hysterical.
Maybe she was like Ino, maybe she knew Hyuuga from before and didn't want him to get involved for old times sake.
"Why do you think I mentioned male? Twas how the angels of old traditionally fell, because of their lust for women, often the wrong ones too," He scoffed at her ignorance, before adding with a smirk, "Besides bedding the enemy is much worse than mere association, wouldn't you agree?"
Tenten looked ready to burst, her eyes gained that feral gleam she possessed when confronting an obstacle best suited for her weapons. As a reminder to Tenten that attacking their much more powerful and dangerous leader wasn't the best thing to do, Ino skillfully stepped in.
"If we're doing this old school, then who's it going to be? Some lower-level demon? It's going to be hard to get a higher up since they would be better informed about them." Ino gestured upward. "Not many demons are going to be willing to try and deceive the unflappable, powerful Hyuuga. Especially if they have any inkling of his wrath, which will be sure to be unleashed upon the person unfortunate enough to do this. Even you can't force someone completely into it Itachi and you wouldn't trust some novice anyway."
She stole a glance at Tenten, she seemed calmed, possibly satisfied at Ino's points. They were reasonable after all, Ino thought a bit smugly, but better yet she's calmed down a bit. While any enraged female was an ordeal, Tenten had a way of letting anyone who stood in the immediate area get hit by flying sharp ammunition. Not purposely of course, but she like Ino herself, could be blinded by her anger. To the point were whoever was closest would do.
"That is for me to decide," he said sharply for the first time that evening, drawing her attention away from the cooling weapons mistress. "Besides sometimes an ignorant subordinate is a better one, a novice wouldn't be aware of the danger." He gestured with a hand lazily, "Dismissed."
They each stood and left, though Tenten lagged behind, staying to talk most likely. She probably did know Hyuuga then, like she knew lazy ass, and might be trying to help for old time's sake. But Ino knew full well that nothing would change Itachi's mind. She would have to watch some bitch drain one of her oldest friends' life energy. She strode towards her quarters reminding herself that this was far from Heaven.
Demons can play dirty. And they do.
Hours had passed and she could hear agonized yells from outside her walls. Things obviously didn't go Tenten's way with her talk with Itachi. She was still blowing of steam and was demolishing weaker demons left and right in the training arena. Poor damned fools.
You'd think they'd be able to soundproof, Ino thought somewhat irritably. We really do need them, not just for preventing outside noise, but inside too. Ino cringed, thinking back to when she went to inform Kankuro of his last bounty. You could hear the head banging sex. Literally, the headboard had been banging against the wall. But no, she thought annoyed as she glared at the ceiling, the only rooms that was completely soundproof was the meeting room, as well as the Uchiha brothers' quarters. Itachi was just too damn paranoid to-
She sat up quickly, her head snapping to either side of the room as she heard the resounding notes of her name. She eyed her room briefly, thrusting out a rough tentative wave of energy. No one else was there but her. Ino groaned, but got up and strode out of her quarters obediently. The only other time this had happened was during the secret congregations during the upsurping of Orochimaru. Itachi had contacted her both times as a means of silent communication. He had established mental links with each member.
Ino rubbed her neck as she thought of what he wanted. It might be to aid in capturing lazy ass. She didn't want to, but if he enforced his order, she knew she'd do it anyway, and it would be much more painful.
She gave a rare sigh of regret as she entered the room she had occupied only a few hours ago. "You rang?" she asked dryly.
He looked up from his seat, in the exact same place he was before. "Indeed."
Great he's back to speaking in monosyllable, one-worded answers, she thought, taking a seat, knowing she would prefer to be comfortable for whatever it was he wanted. "Let's cut the crap. What is it you want me to do?"
He smirked. "That's one of my favorite qualities about you. So direct." Ino's face was expectant. "Very well impatient one. I want you to be the one to deal with the Hyuuga."
Ino almost fell out of her chair.
She pulled herself up and regained some composure, trying to retain some dignity. No that it made a difference, she noted, seeing his smirk. She then stated a less loud question, "I thought one of the lower levels was going to handle that."
"It's as you said, why should I entrust a novice with this?" he stated coolly. "Besides I am aware that you are much more alluring than many of your fellow female Hellions."
She knew Itachi found her attractive. They fucked for months. She scowled at the small pang of pleasure. Why should she care?! She knew she was an eye-catcher. Blue eyes that border lined on aqua and seemed to change a different shade, golden-silver shoulder length hair, full lips, and a slender frame with curves at 5'7, she knew she was a knockout. But that was beside the point. "What about Tenten and Sakura? They're just as attractive."
Now it may have sounded dense to suggest Tenten when she obviously had issues, and despicable to mention Sakura when she hated her, but it was true.
Tenten had what some people would call common coloring, but her almond shaped hazel eyes were big and flicked with honey golden specks. She had long, silky mahogany hair that she kept up in buns. If Tenten ever chose to let them down, she wouldn't need weapons to knock out a guy. But as she argued frequently, long hair impaired her vision.
"Tenten has personal issues with the Hyuuga, as I'm sure you can tell. They knew each other and he will know that she isn't supposed to rein in Purgatory," Itachi said calmly, almost reading her mind. "Besides, you look, ironically, more angelic."
"Sakura? She's been complimented on her innocent coloring." Ino knew she sounded desperate if she was willing to offer Sakura. But she was desperate, Hyuuga Neji had a powerful wrath and she had a feeling Tenten would skin her if she found out. Plus, in an even worse addition, this was infinitely worse than capturing lazy ass, at least then she'd only see him once and be able to avoid the majority of the guilt, but now she'd have to be seeing him everyday to steal his soul's energy.
And as much as she loathe to admit it, Sakura was also a beauty.
Slight shorter than the other two at 5'5 and not as curvy, she wasn't exactly cursed flat either. And she had the most unique coloring out of the three. Pink hair, which was completely natural and green stalk eyes, she fit her name to the point where it was just eerie. But she was pretty enough and shapely.
"No. For one Sakura looks more like a fairy. Secondly she is skilled, but I wouldn't entrust her with something like this," Itachi said plainly, looking at her directly.
She nodded, "Okay I get that, but what are Tenten's issues?" She couldn't stop herself from asking, her curiosity was more than not insatiable.
"You're free to ask her yourself," he said instead.
Ino thought back to her earlier thoughts, and the probably still audible screams. "I'll pass."
Itachi's hand reached out and gripped her chin firmly. At one point they had stood up during their conversation, and she had gotten within reaching distance. Probably when she fell out of her chair, she mused dimly.
"Now Ino, do I have to force you?" She winced inwardly. She remembered the last time all too clearly. It was painfully clear.
"No," she mumbled.
She gritted her teeth. "No," she repeated, louder and clearer than before.
"Good," he stepped back satisfied. "Oh and if you succeed," he paused and then added with feigned nonchalance, "I'll release you from your contract."
Ino felt her eyes widen. "Really?" she croaked out.
"Yes," he brushed her bangs back. "The contract says until I find that you have done enough, until I don't need you anymore. If you succeed in this, you'll have fulfilled the clause. I will find it disposable." He stoked her cheek in a fond way. If Itachi can be fond of anything.
"But then were would my soul go? Purgatory will be destroyed, Heaven conquered, I'll just end up right back here," Ino was able to say after a period of speechlessness on her part.
"Be an immortal, roam the Earth, be reincarnated. Whatever you wish, but you'll never be chained to me again," he stated, dropping his hand and striding back to his seat.
Her thoughts were racing as her head was bowed.
To be freed, it would mean not being stuck in here, no more dealing with insufferable bastards and Sakura. No more taking orders she didn't want to. And all she had to do, all that was required to make that happen was to make one, just one, lone dark angel fall from grace. At the risk of getting found out was it worth it? Was it worth risking her soul once again for only a chance at something actually changing for once? She bit her lip as she contemplated the answer the she knew already.
Yes, it was.
"If you swear, if you promise," Ino began cautiously, knowing full well that Itachi was a slippery bastard.
"Ino you know even I can't break my word once I give it. The cost of being a hell master. And there is no loophole. No way for me to weasel out," he said softly, his voice echoing against the walls.
Her head bowed more, hands fisted as she turned over his words. When she lifted her head they shined with blue fire. "If you keep your word," she said slowly, "Then I'll deal with the Hyuuga."
"Then you have my word." His mind suddenly felt tired. It always fatigued him when he was forced to make an oath. "It will be a shame to lose your services. You were such a good advisor and conspirator. After I rule Heaven I'll have liked to see you there, but oh well."
She ignored him, "How long will I have?"
"2 weeks, a month at most. Even without the Nara, they are clever."
Ino knew better than to complain about the short amount of time. "What will you tell the others? Tenten won't be happy." Gaara would be less than pleased too, not that she cared she added privately.
"That you're covering our tracks. No one will know," he answered, once again responding as if he was reading her mind. She wouldn't put it past him to be able to have tried though. The only reason she knew for sure he couldn't was because minds were her specialty.
"When do I start?" she asked.
"As soon as we have the Nara."
"And how, per say, will you be doing that? He's not a genius for nothing."
"That is for me to decide. He'll be here in a few days I can assure you." He rested his chin on elegantly folded hands. "You don't have a problem with that do you?'
She shook her head slowly. Sorry sloth-boy, she thought with new regret and rare guilt once more.
"I trust you will work hard. They say the Hyuuga is set in his ways," he related as he watched her step out of the congregation chamber.
"Nothing is set in stone," she told him as she twisted to look back at him. "I'll hand you the Hyuuga." He nodded and watched her walk off. He would miss such fire. Itachi dismissed it and instead focused on something else. Now, how to get the Nara, he pondered as he began to formulate a plot like so many times before.
END OF CHAPTER I
Author's Note: Hey I hope you enjoyed the chapter. Please review, I like hearing what you have to say, as well as any suggestions or questions. I know I'm full of them. I'll update anyways, but reviews are the fuel that makes me churn out chapters. I have nothing against Sakura, but that's just how I saw her in this story, don't worry she'll come out in good light later. Maybe not it this story, but maybe the next one.