The woman screamed and kept on screaming. The pain stopped and she sucked in breath. She looked up at the ninja who was kneeling over her broken body. The ninja was completely covered in black. A simple mask covered the ninja's face except for a pair of pupil less lavender eyes. "Please kill me." She whimpered.
Two fingers immediately stabbed down into her shoulder and fresh pain tore into her and she started screaming again. The ninja patiently counted to thirty and then pulled the fingers back. When the screams stopped she spoke to her in a soft and polite voice. "The pain ends when you tell me what I want to know. If you give me the information I need I promise I will make it quick and clean."
"All right," the woman whispered. "He is in grass country at…" Two fingers came down again, into her hip this time. Again she felt herself screaming. She was crying because she knew she was at the end of her endurance.
The ninja reached thirty and pulled her fingers back temporarily ending the torment. "I've told you before not to lie. You know I have to give you credit Karen; I can usually break people within ten minutes. But here you are coming up on two hours." She looked around at the empty laboratory. It was a mess. Not ten feet away were two bodies. "I mean usually when people hold out it's because they have some sort of hope. But that's not the case with you now is it? I mean your arms and legs are broken. All the guards and assistants are dead. There is no one who is going to come and rescue you. You're all alone now." The woman began crying harder. Hinata thanked Ibiki for his many lessons in psychological torture techniques as well as thanking Tsunade's on human anatomy. "Why are you fighting so hard when we both know how this is going to end? You've lasted two hours but I have all night, all week, all month if I need it."
"I can't tell you."
"Why not? The sooner you tell the sooner I end your pain."
"If I tell you you're going to kill him."
"That's true Karen-chan but why should that bother you? You'll be long gone by then. And given your experiments I doubt you could have any sort of moral concerns." She chuckled. "Besides where your soul is going I'm sure you'll be seeing him again real soon."
"I can't, just please kill me." She stabbed two fingers into her and began counting.
When she released she asked again, mildly curious to hear what the sadistic doctor would have to say. "So why can't you say?"
"Because I love him," she whispered.
Hinata felt her fists clench and had to restrain her self from breaking the woman's jaw. Instead Hinata took out a kunai and slammed it clear through her left shoulder blade. She began speaking even as the woman cried out. "Don't you dare use that word again or I'll hack off your arms and legs while you watch. Love? You don't know what that word means. I know what it really is to love someone more than your own life. Don't you dare compare your pathetic infatuation with what I feel. You don't love him and he sure as hell doesn't love you. All you have is some pathetic attraction that you've deluded yourself into thinking is love, but it's not. Comparing your feelings to mine is a joke; it's like comparing the fire of a candle to that of the sun."
Karen looked up through her tears. "You are Hyuga Hinata aren't you?" Hinata nodded. "The person you're talking about is Nar…"
"Say his name and I will hack off your right arm."
Karen gulped. "He told me about you, he said you were one of the kindest and gentlest people he had ever known."
"That's true I suppose, but that was a long time ago. I mean he was once a trusted and admired shinobi of the leaf. Things change."
Karen looked tired and broken. "You'll never stop will you?"
Karen let out a long sigh. "He is in fire country in an old run down temple outside Gakurra."
"That's only about twenty miles from Konoha!" Hinata could hardly believe it but her Byakugan confirmed that it was the truth. "Thank you Karen-chan, I promise you will feel no more pain."
"May I have a last request?" Hinata nodded. "Will you tell Sasuke I am sorry?"
"I will." Karen nodded her gratitude and shut her eyes. Hinata reached over and in one motion snapped her neck.
Outside the lab entrance she signaled the all clear and the other three members of her team appeared.
"Burn it down." She handed one of them a sealed note written in code. "When you're done return and report to the Hokage. I have to take care of something."
"Captain you're not…"
She shook her head. "I will meet back up with you at ANBU headquarters later." She took off without another word. Given her reputation no one was going to question her.
At a small stream not more than a couple miles away she was refilling her canteen. The moment she had found out the location she had decided. She took a soldier pill to give herself a maximum amount of energy and stamina. She could reach Gakurra in 12 hours. If something went wrong the Hokage would have the information and would send out multiple teams to finish the job.
With her mask off she looked at her reflection in the stream. She was only 22, but a stranger would guess she was far older. She had never been considered a great beauty but she had often been referred to as pretty or cute. Well those times were long gone. Her face had several scars on it; including a large ugly burn on most of her right cheek and one that ran clear across her jaw from her right ear to the tip of her chin. If she had removed her ninja armor and clothing she would have seen other scars all over her arms, legs, and body. When she walked around town without a mask on children would sometimes cry and people would look the other way. No man would ever ask her out, but since the only one she had ever wanted was gone it didn't bother her any. She was proud of her scars and of everything else she had suffered in the past 6 years. She considered them nothing more than the price paid to become ultimate weapon of the ANBU black ops. She had driven herself mercilessly to gain power and had. She had mastered a dozen different weapons, four different fighting styles, over a hundred jutsus, and had developed her chakra to the point where it was almost as large as Tsunade's. She had become the greatest assassin ANBU had ever seen surpassing even Kakashi's records. And she had spent the last two and a half years on an S-rank mission given to her by the Hokage in secret.
That mission of course had been to track down and kill Uchiha Sasuke. No one outside her team knew, not even the Council. Tsunade had feared that if they found out they would interfere. In that time Hinata had not spent more than a month in Konoha. She had chased down every last lead, no matter how slim. She had killed his agents, destroyed his bases, crippled his organization, but somehow he always stayed one step ahead of her. And now her time was running out; Godaime Hokage was dying of liver failure. She had perhaps a month left. The woman who had loved Naruto as a son wanted justice done as badly as Hinata did. She was grimly holding on to life and her position as Hokage in order to give Hinata one last chance. No one knew who would be the next Hokage, but it seemed likely her orders would be changed.
Hinata thought what it would be like to lose Tsunade. She was one of the few people she was still close to. One by one she had lost touch with her friends; Kurenai, Kiba, Shino, Shikamaru, Sakura and others as she could not find time for any of them. One of the great ironies of her life was that her father had finally seen value in her just as she had turned her back on him and her clan. Hanabi, Neji, and even Hiashi could not hold their own against her. Hiashi had offered to make her the heir and step down, only to have her decline and tell him she wanted nothing to do with him. It was odd but she thought she might have actually hurt him with her refusal. Not that she cared. She was somewhat close to her current teammates, but not in the same way she had been with team 8. Their work was too hard and she had to push too hard for them to get really friendly. The only other people she was close to were Neji, Tenten, and their son Hizashi. Whenever she was in Konoha he insisted they all spend time together, even if it was just for an hour as she got ready to leave on another mission. That was another of the ironies in her life that it was Neji who wanted them to be close and she was the one who kept people at a distance.
Well actually there was one other person she was still close to. She reached into her uniform and pulled out her most cherished possession. It was just a simple photograph that Kakashi had taken on a mission six long years ago. She looked at it and felt the pain and the longing come back in a rush. It was the only picture she had of her and the one she loved. There was a 16 year old Naruto with a huge grin on his face full of life and fun, one hand held out in a 'V' the other wrapped around the shoulder of a blushing girl who looked about ready to faint. Sometimes when she was alone at night she would look at the photo and pretend it was a picture of them on a date. She would let herself imagine that they had gotten together. Sometimes when she dreamed it was of their wedding day. She dreamed of a small house in Konoha somewhere filled with the laughter of children playing with their parents. She dreamed of him standing before all of Konoha and proclaiming himself Rockudaime Hokage and swearing to protect and guide all of them. And some mornings when she woke up the dreams would seem real to her. She would be truly happy, expecting to find him asleep next to her. But then she would remember. Tears came to her eyes. It amazed her that a killer like her could even have a heart. She could torture someone for hours on end without blinking, but the sight of an old photo would break her and leave her a sobbing mess. Wasn't time supposed to heal all wounds? Why did it still hurt like this? "Naruto." She cried out his name and fell to her knees in sorrow.
He was on his knees, his palms pressed together in prayer, eyes closed and mouth silently speaking the words his mother had taught him a lifetime ago. May I be forgiven my sins. He ended the prayer and opened his eyes. On the dusty altar before him were two candles and a picture frame bearing his clan symbol. Everything was silent. He waited patiently.
"Welcome Hinata." Only then did he hear her footsteps. She was about twenty feet directly behind him. He did not turn around or try to get up.
"Hello Sasuke. It's been awhile huh?"
"Yeah, six years, I presume the rest of your team is outside."
"No, I came alone."
Now he did turn around to look. She was in her normal black uniform except that her mask was gone. Her pose seemed to be relaxed. One hand was resting on the hilt of her katana the other on her hip. "This is personal isn't it?"
"Yeah, before we get started Karen asked me to tell you she was sorry."
He nodded. "Thank you, it's good to know she was loyal to me."
"Yes I suppose that would be a rare commodity for a missing nin, even one as powerful as you. If you don't mind me asking what god were you praying to?"
"I was praying to my ancestors."
She nodded, "Well I'll grant you that at least makes sense. I suppose they have no choice but to listen to the prayers of the last Uchiha. You are the last Uchiha?"
He slowly nodded. "I killed Itachi two months ago."
She tilted her head and looked at him. "Was it worth it?"
He considered that, he'd been asking himself the same question for two months. "I don't know. Right after I killed him I felt happy, like everything I'd done had been vindicated. All the sacrifices were worth it because I'd finally avenged my family. But then later I just felt empty. I wasn't an avenger anymore so what did I have?" They were both silent for a moment. "How is Sakura?"
"Pinky? We kind of lost touch. I hear she's fine though, Tenten and her are close. She has been married to Lee for two years now and I hear she is expecting in a couple months."
Sasuke closed his eyes. "I always hoped I would get to see her again. I wanted to thank her for not giving up on me."
"But she did." Sasuke opened his eyes. "After you killed… Naruto she stopped talking about you. If she still feels anything for you Sasuke she keeps it to herself."
"That's probably for the best, considering. I guess a part of me was hoping she would help me restore my clan."
Hinata laughed out loud. "Oh that's a good one; the heartless avenger who kills his best friend wants to be a dad." Sasuke scowled at her and slowly rose to his feet to face her. "Your heartbeats rising, did I hurt your pride? I'm sorry Sasuke-kun, but if you wanted to restore your clan you should have stayed in Konoha, married Sakura, and had babies."
"I know this makes no difference Hinata, but if it's worth anything I am sorry. I truly regret the things I had to do."
"You still don't get it do you? You didn't have to do any of it. You made the choice to become an avenger. You chose to leave Konoha and abandon your friends. You chose to kill anyone who got between you and Itachi. You told Sakura the day you left that new paths would open. You knew what you were doing curse mark or no curse mark. You don't get to take it all back with an, 'I'm sorry,' now."
"What about you Hinata? You've killed more people than I have. You're an avenger as well."
She smiled. "I know, the difference is I don't pretend it was forced on me. I chose this, and I knew what it would cost."
He shook his head. "No, you don't, you won't know that until it's done." He took a deep breath. "After I killed Itachi I realized something, I finally understood why he let me live."
"You were just a kid."
He looked at her coldly. "There were other children in the Uchiha compound, babies too. I think Itachi went mad, but a part of him was sane enough to understand he couldn't live with his guilt. He wanted someone there to make sure he wouldn't have to." Hinata said nothing. He waited a moment. Then he shrugged and activated his curse seal to its second level. As he did so she calmly drew out her katana and dropped into a fighting stance. "I will say this one final time, I am sorry Hinata."
"So am I." Her breathing was calm and she felt her blood pounding in her ears. She was ready; everything she had done for six years had led to this day. She dipped her sword. "Your blood on my blade," she whispered.
"Take it if you can." His hands flashed together as he took a deep breath and used his wings to fly up into the vaulted ceiling about 30 feet above her. Grand fireball Jutsu, he spat out three huge boulders of flame. She bolted forward towards him.
Their fight was vicious and by the end of it they were both nearly empty of chakra. He had tried to strike her down with his Black Chidori, but she was too fast for him. Naruto had told her once how Sasuke had nearly died in Wave country fighting Haku. Throughout their fight she had riddled him with hundreds of senbon needles, slowly paralyzing him. She had cut him with her katana several times, as the needles slowed him down she had gotten deeper cuts. And for all of Sasuke's ability and power he could not reach her or break through her ultimate defense.
In the end he lay broken on the temple floor, no longer able to even sit up, over a hundred needles sticking out of him. He had reverted form his curse seal back into human form. She saw he had the Mangekyo Sharingan activated but that was useless as long as she had herByakugan.
"Oh Sasuke," she shook her head. "You should know from our academy days that while your eyes could stop every other girl they never did anything for me." She was calmly standing over him with her bloodied katana.
He actually smirked. "Your eyes always made you my perfect enemy. That's why I always avoided fighting you. That and I didn't want to kill another of my friends."
"We haven't been friends for a very long time Sasuke."
He deactivated his sharingan. "I know," he said sadly.
She looked down at him. The man she had hated and pursued for six long years. She couldn't believe it but she actually felt a tiny spark of sorrow for him. "This temple," she said. "It's less than twenty miles from here to the Hokage tower. You had no guards, no traps, and no defenses at all. And you were in a room with only one entrance. You were done running weren't you?"
He nodded, and seemed to be strangely at peace now that all the fighting was finally over. "With Itachi dead there's nothing for me now. Even the idea of restoring my clan is impossible, my enemies will never stop."
She looked down at his broken body and felt only sadness. So much blood so much death, for what? "Sasuke, if it means anything to you I am sorry, and I… forgive you."
He actually smiled up at her. "Thank you Hinata, that does mean something to me. You granted Karen a last request. May I also have one?"
"Upstairs you will find the room I was staying in. There is a letter by my bed, it's addressed to Sakura. Would you see that she gets it?"
"There is one last thing Hinata. You asked me if it was worth it. It wasn't, I think you'll realize that soon." He shut his eyes. "Please end it now."
She lifted up her sword. "Good-bye Sasuke." Her sword fell and the last Uchiha was gone.
One month later
It was two in the morning and she was staring up into the face of her beloved Naruto-kun. She had always thought it fitting that the statue showed him smiling at all the world. Some idiots claimed it was undignified, but they had never known him. She knew he would want them all to see him with a smile. She looked up into his face and let the pain wash over her. She gave into it and welcomed the tears. Sasuke had been right, it wasn't worth it. And deep down in her heart of hearts she knew Naruto would never have wanted this for her. She had changed completely from the girl he had known, and there was no going back. She had come here now because she had decided there was no going forward either.
Tsunade had died two days after Sasuke. She had held on to see the son of her heart avenged. With that done she had given up. No one was sure who the next Hokage would be, not that it mattered. With Tsunade gone one more connection to the world was lost. She had delivered the letter to Sakura just as she had promised. Sakura had read it and immediately become inconsolable. She had cried for days, with no one able to comfort her, not even her husband or her best friend Ino.
As always Neji had tried his best to help her; he had even offered to let her move in with them so she would be alone less. She had appreciated her cousin's kindness deeply, but had declined. She had changed too much to pretend she belonged anywhere. And she cared too much for Neji, Tenten, and their son to depress them with own pain. There were still missions of course, there were always bad guys to kill, and she was still the best of killers. She was healthy and young and might well have another forty or fifty years of life. Forty years, it sounded like a prison sentence to her. She looked up into his smiling face.
"Hello Naruto-kun, you probably already know why I've come here. I'm sure you're disappointed in me. Just like always I end up taking the easy way out. But you see you were always the one who gave me courage. I always wished I could be as brave as you were. But without you I can't find the courage. Please forgive me my sweet Naruto-kun if I have let you down one more time. And know whatever happens to me my love is yours now and forever."
She pulled out her wakizashi and placed the tip below her rib cage. She whispered a silent prayer to Kami or to whoever was listening and asked for only one thing. That if a monster like her could be forgiven that she be allowed to see him just one last time. Then with all her might she drove her blade up and in.
The pain was gone and there was only light, she heard his voice. Hinata I love you! I am waiting come and be with me! She was happy and went into the light unafraid.