"Please!" the dark haired girl begged, dropping to her knees in front of Kakashi. Her mismatched eyes looking up at him, pleading. She was completely soaked, her messy black hair dripping water on the dusty rug. The pale skin on her face was smeared with blood and she was bleeding from numerous small cuts on her hands and face. The kunai she had been holding to her throat fell to the floor as her last reserves of strength gave out.
Kakashi took a step forward, his eyes narrowing.
When the girl saw him move she panicked, moving her hands across the moth-eaten rug, searching franticly for the kunai she had dropped. He thought she was going to attack him, but when her searching fingers finally landed on the knife she brought it up to her throat again.
"I won't go back," she said, her voice high and shaking. She looked exhausted but determined. "I'll kill myself first. No-ones going to take me alive, not again. It was a mistake to give myself up the first time. I should have fought them, I should have died. I won't make that mistake again! Did you hear me?! Not again! Her grip on the kunai tightened and Kakashi could see her knuckles turning white.
The tall jonin stopped, frowning and not wanting to make a move in case she decided he was too much of a risk. "There's no need for that," he told the girl as she watched him suspiciously. "We're not here to hurt you."
"Shut up!" the young woman cried. "Shut up! I know why you're here, they sent in new people to trick me. Just because I've never seen you before doesn't mean...I'm not going back, and you can tell them that. You can go out there and tell that scum that their experiment is over! Tell them I'm dead.!"
The kunai at her throat was beginning to draw blood.
This girl is obviously a kunoichi, Kakashi thought, eyeing her shuriken holster and the weapons she had dropped on the floor behind her. But her chakra is low and she's badly wounded. She looks like she could collapse at any moment.
Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura stood, frozen, behind their sensei, watching the girl with wide eyes. The last thing they had expected to find in this house was a half dead young woman threatening to take her own life.
Team seven had been returning from a mission, escorting a wealthy merchant to his home village, when a violent storm had hit. They had decided to take shelter for the night in a small abandoned house they had found by the side of the road. To their surprise they had found a young woman, matted and bleeding, standing in the centre of the small bedroom, a kunai to her throat and a calm look on her face. When she had noticed them, however, something inside her seemed to snap and she had fallen to her knees.
Kakashi took a deep breath, wondering how he was going to stop the girl before she did something irreversible. He didn't want her to kill herself before he even knew what her name was. "I don't know who you think we are," he said softly, trying to calm her. "But we're not here to hurt you, or take you anywhere. We only came here to shelter from the storm."
It was obvious that the dark haired woman didn't believe him. She pressed the kunai closer to her throat. Her hands were shaking from exhaustion and a thin stream of blood flowed down her neck and disappeared under the collar of her ragged shirt. She was breathing heavily and she seemed to have trouble focusing on Kakashi. He was beginning to worry that if he didn't act quickly she would die from loss of blood.
"If you're not here for me then why don't you leave?" she said, swaying slightly. "Just go, pretend you never saw me," she shifted slightly, trying to keep all four of the team in view at the same time. As she did so Kakashi noticed the front of her shirt was covered in blood and that she was favouring her right side, as if her left was injured.
"We can't do that," the silver haired sensei told the girl.
She smiled a small humourless smile, which sent a shiver through the young man's body. Her eyes were cold and lifeless, as if she were already dead. She reminded him of an animated corps. "Why not?" she asked. "Why cant you just leave me alone?"
"Because we can't allow you to hurt yourself," Kakashi replied, taking a small step forward, the girl attempted to move further away, her hand on the floor to keep her upright. By now they could hear that she was having trouble breathing, taking in air slowly and carefully, but letting it out quickly, as if it hurt her. "We don't even know your name," Kakashi continued. "Maybe we can help you."
A hollow laugh escaped the girls full lips. She opened her mouth to say something but stopped suddenly, as if she had heard a noise. No longer paying any attention to team seven, she looked around the room quickly.
"Their coming," she whispered, fear clearly visible in her two toned eyes. Again she attempted to move back, the arm that was supporting her starting to shake violently. She stopped when she came up against the wall.
The stream of blood from her neck was flowing more steadily now and Kakashi was surprised she was still upright. He turned his attention away from her and was able to sense the chakra of five other people close by, making their way steadily towards the small house.
He was about to instruct his team in a course of action, when the young woman let out a small sigh and fell forward, hitting the ground with a soft thud, and lay still.
"Sakura, Naruto, see if you can help the girl. I don't want her to die before I know what's going on here," Kakashi ordered. "Sasuke, guard the house, I'm going out there to see what she was running from," with that he climbed out of the small bedroom window and disappeared into the rain.
It didn't take long for the young sensei to realise that the people out in the storm were ninja from Nikkogakure, a close ally of Konoha, though it was very far north. He felt that he would not be in danger if he showed himself to them, but he decided to keep the girls presence in the house quiet until he knew what they wanted with her.
"Identify yourself!" one of the Nikko shinobi cried as Kakashi stepped into view. The rain was still very heavy, making visibility low, so Kakashi was able to get quite close before they had noticed his presence. He was able to observe that they were all elite jonin shinobi before they had seen him.
"I'm Hatake Kakashi, shinobi of Konohagakure," he replied calmly and he felt the people around him relax slightly, though they were still on guard. "I was returning from a mission with my team when the storm hit, we're camped nearby. I felt your squad and thought I would come over and investigate. So what are you guys doing out here, and so far from the Light country?"
Once the Nikko squad had confirmed that Kakashi was indeed from an allied village they settled down a bit more. They were no longer in the Light country, home of Nikkogakure village, and were obviously more on guard than they would normally have been in their homeland. They didn't know what to expect, being so far from home.
"Hatake-san," a short man said, stepping forward. His face was completely covered by a blank mask. "I am Hiruma of Nikkogakure. My squad and I are on a mission. We are looking for an escaped criminal who is armed and highly dangerous. We know she was in this area as we have been tracking her for quite some time, but a short time ago we lost her chakra signal."
"A criminal?" Kakashi said. The young woman hadn't seemed too dangerous, but then she had been about to collapse. She had said she wouldn't go back, maybe she meant back to prison. She had also said to tell them that their experiment was over, which didn't make sense if she was a prisoner, as experimentation on convicts was strictly forbidden. "Highly dangerous you say?"
"Yes," replied the squad leader. "She has committed the mass murder of an entire village and has also killed many skilled shinobi. She is considered an S-class criminal and it is a top priority of the Hikarikage that she be recaptured or killed as soon as possible."
Kakashi couldnt help but wonder what would make an S-class criminal so distressed that they would be willing to take their own life. What she had said about being an experiment came back to him. Something didn't add up.
"We would like to know if you have seen anyone suspicious in the area, Hatake-san," the squad leader continued. "The criminal in question in in her late teens, black hair and mismatched eyes, one gold and one silver. She is of medium hight and slender and would have been carrying a large bundle of weaponry and clothing with her."
Kakashi thought it might be better if the Nikko squad didn't know of the woman's existence in the area. There was something going on that he didn't feel was quite right and he wanted to find out more before he handed her over.
"No," the silver haired jonin answered. "We haven't seen anyone around here at all." Thinking fast he added. "But the real reason I came out here was to see who you were. You see I knew Konoha didn't have any patrols in this area at the moment so I wondered who could possibly be coming onto Fire country soil. I realise that you are our allies and that you are pursuing a dangerous criminal, however, the fact remains that you have crossed into our land without the proper authorisation of the Hokage. I', going to have to ask you to retreat back to your own land. I will report this matter to the Hokage, who will be in touch with your Hikarikage so that we can work together to bring this person in. Right now you seem to have lost her anyway, as there is no chakra signal and this storm would have made her impossible to track."
The Nikko ninja followed this speech closely before turning to their squad leader. Kakashi knew that, no matter how much he wanted to bring this criminal in, he didn't want to start a war with Konoha by breaking their peace treaty. His hands were tied, unless he was willing to Kill Kakashi and continue anyway.
Apparently he wasn't because, after a moment, he bowed low and instructed his squad to move back to the Konoha border, though Kakashi could tell, even without seeing his face, that he was extremely annoyed at the situation. He was certain his superiors wouldn't be happy when he reported his failure.
Kakashi waited until he felt their chakra cross back over the fire countries border before he made his way back to the small house and his team. As he climbed through the window a shuriken came flying at his head, which he caught easily.
"Nice aim Sasuke, but just a bit slow," the young sensei said as he handed the weapon back to the raven haired boy, who scowled and walked over to the corner to sulk. He obviously didn't like being shown up by anyone, even his sensei.
"What did you find out sensei?" Sakura asked, taking her eyes off the annoyed Uchiha. She had cleaned and bandaged the other young woman's wounds and found a blanket to cover her with, though it wasn't doing much good as the girl was still shivering.
"Well Sakura, I found out that you have taken very good care of an S-class criminal from Nikkogakure." Naruto and Sakura both gasped and even Sasuke's eyes were wide. Kakashi sighed before telling them everything he had found out.
"Why didn't you just hand her over sensei?" Naruto asked, large blue eyes darting back and forth between his sensei and the unconscious woman. "If she's a criminal than wouldn't it have been better to just..."
Kakashi cut him off. "I know Naruto but there is something strange about this situation and I didn't want to give her up before I found out what was really going on. I wonder if any of you have spotted the inconsistencies in this situation yet," he looked around at his squad, knowing that he would get something from Sakura and Sasuke but not expecting anything from Naruto.
After a moment of silence Sasuke answered, proving Kakashi right. "If she's an S-class criminal than why is she so emotional? Why was she so scared about being taken back to prison" She was too distressed."
"That's one reason," Kakashi said, nodding.
"She said something about experiments," Sakura put in. "She told you to tell them that the experiment was over or something, but, being a prisoner, there is no way anyone in Nikko would have touched her. I remember Iruka-sensei telling us that Nikko are very strict with their laws, and they have a law about the treatment of prisoners that states..."
Kakashi cut her off before she lectured them on the whole legal history of Nikkogakure. "Yes. Yes, very good Sakura. As you have both spotted, she shows way too much emotion for an S-class criminal and her imprisonment would mean much better treatment than she seems to have gotten. There's also the matter of why she's in the Fire country. "Why would she come here, why not go somewhere more quiet and closer to the Light country? She's come a long way."
"I noticed something too Kakashi-sensei," Naruto said seriously. The rest of the team turned to look at him as if he had gone mad. Naruto was hardly ever this serious and never noticed anything the others had missed. "When I was helping Sakura with the woman's wounds," the blond continued. " I saw something that looked odd. She had a lot of scars on her stomach and some fresh cuts. But their not from fighting because their all straight, as if she's been operated on or something. One wounds still got stitches in it, keeping it closed. There's also a lot of little marks on her arms that look like needle pricks."
Team seven looked at the blond boy as if seeing him for the first time. Kakashi recovered himself quickly and went over to check if Naruto was right. Sure enough there were a series of straight horizontal and verticla cuts on her stomach that did indeed look as if she had been operated on more than once, and her arms were covered with small puncture wounds. He wondered how Naruto noticed when Sakura clearly hadn't.
"Well done Naruto," Kakashi said, astonished. "But now we have to wonder why a prisoner would have been operated on multiple times. Unless they really were experimenting on her."
He studied her face for a moment, noticing her unnaturally pale skin and her oddly cut black hair. It was short around her face and stuck up in different directions, but was left long, past her waist, and plaited at the back of her head.
Her wet, muddy clothes were little more than rags, all in a washed out grey colour and she wasn't wearing any shoes. There were small cuts on her face, arms, legs and feet.
He remembered her eyes. The right one was a glimmering silver, the left a deep unnatural gold. Her facial were delicate. Full lips, hight cheekbones and slightly tilted, almond shaped eyes gave her an exotic look. He couldn't help thinking that she was very beautiful.
Kakashi suddenly turned away from the girl, his one visible eye fixing on Sasuke. "I want you to remove her weapons and tie her up, tight. We're not taking any chances. Blindfold her as well," with that he moved swiftly over to where she had dropped all of her belongings, which he studied carefully whilst Sasuke carried out his orders.
There was some kunai, shuriken and a few senbon, nothing out of the ordinary, until he came across a katar, a type of punching dagger with a reinforced point, capable of punching through even the toughest metal. There was also a naginata, a curved sword blade mounted onto a long black staff which reached about two metres. Last of all there were two swords, one in the wakazashi style, the other a katana.
In another bundle he found clothes ans armour, similar to his ANBU uniform, but with slight stylistic differences. He serched the clothes but found nothing of interest, except for a Hitai-ate, which was blank. Other than that she had nothing else. No food or provisions to speak of.
Still holding the Hitai-ate, he made his way back over to the unconscious girl and checked the knots and bindings Sasuke had used were tight. After he was satisfied he sat on the floor, his back to the wall and looked down at the Hitai-ate in his hands.
It was exactly like ever Hitai-ate he had ever seen, except that there was no village symbol on it. He knew that the members of the criminal organisation, Akatsuki, put a line through their symbols to signify a split with their village, but couldn't think what a blank one was supposed to mean.
Maybe that she had no village? He questioned himself. Or maybe something else. The Nikko shinobi sis say she had killed an entire village. Maybe this was a way of showing that the place no longer existed. Assuming that it had been her home village of course.
Kakashi sighed and looked down at the unconscious girl. The temperature outside was dropping further and he knew that she would never survive a night in the rain, in her condition. There was only one thing they could do now.
"Well stay here till the rain gives out," the young jonin told his team. "Then we'll take her to Konoha with us. Tsunade-sama will know what to do with her, and we might be able to get some answers to a few questions."
He looked back down at the Hitai-ate in his hands, feeling that he should know what it meant.