Definition of a Ninja
She felt like she was floating, suspended in animation.
Is this purgatory? Am I about to be judged? Being the mediocre sort of shinobi that she was, she'd expected this fate for a while.
But no. It felt – wrong. It felt like she was hanging in water, not air. There was something attached to her mouth that was feeding her filtered air. She didn't like it. She liked being outdoors, breathing in on cool, crisp autumn mornings. Breathing real air.
Her eyes flickered open, and there was a hum of hushed voices around her, talking all at once.
"…finally woken up…"
"…begin the procedure at once…"
"…jump to conclusions…"
"…account for mental instability…"
"…try her sister?"
She was completely awake then, aware of everything around her. She was – in a tube? Yes, yes, a tube. She was floating in a tube of greenish water, she was bereft of any clothing, she was being observed by a group of seven scientists who were recording her every action. Their voices were murky, muffled by the thick glass of her prison. She bit back her panic, lest she faint and ruin any chance of escape.
And escape she must. Because she recognized the little insignia stitched onto the front pockets of their long, white lab coats.
Hinata was in Kumogakure. And if what they said could be trusted, then Hanabi was here too.
They waited one day until they extracted her.
As she drifted in between wake and sleep, a shock of some sort passed through her system, moving her into complete wakefulness in half a second. All of them were there again, staring at her coldly, expectantly. She could not muster the energy to glare back; even if she could, she wouldn't, because she had a job to do. And appearing as weak as possible was a part of that job.
The green, viscous water drained out of the tube with a loud sucking noise into a drain on the floor, leaving her completely exposed. The breathing mask disengaged with a pop and she gasped in the sour-smelling air of her "cell", most likely a residual scent from whatever that liquid had been infused with. Hinata found it quite easy to play the part of the weak, helpless little girl as she wobbled to and fro and her knees buckled. Her muscles had not been in use for some time, then.
One of them chuckled as she pitched forward trying to catch her balance and ended up striking her forehead against the thick, reinforced glass. Out of all the mortifying and downright shameful episodes with her father and others within the clan, she had never felt more humiliated and degraded than she had at that moment. Unfortunately, the worst was yet to come.
A sour-faced man with a look of disgust on his face as he gazed at her walked closer. He typed in a combination of several numbers and letters to an electronic lock on the tube and it opened with a hiss, a half-circle. The split in the glass where it opened was almost invisible to the naked eye. This technology was so advanced; was Konoha so far behind, or were their labs as secret as she suspected this one was and just as sophisticated?
Of course, she had been leaning most of her weight against the front of the tube; when they opened it, her reflexes were so poor she immediately fell forward, hitting several different body parts as she sprawled on the floor. Their mocking laughter was ringing in her ears; the cool tile against the bare skin of her chest was awful. She could not muster the arm strength to lift herself up and even if she could, the oily residue from the green liquid had her slipping all over the place just trying to curl into a ball. A pair of hands clamped down, one around her waist and one on her shoulder, and lifted her up to lean against an unknown male. Her body tensed and was completely still. She stared straight ahead at the Kumo crest on his lab coat. He chuckled lowly. It was not a pleasant sound.
"But she's a pretty little thing, isn't she?" The hand on her shoulder slid down her back; his fingertips grazed her ass precariously. She shuddered, squeezing her eyes shut, and heard their mocking laughter once again.
"That's enough. I'll take over from here."
A different set of hands tugged her away from her captor and wrapped her in what felt like a papery hospital gown. It was open-backed, but at least she wasn't completely nude anymore. She still didn't open her eyes. The same person carried her over to a cool metal table and set her down. Soon she felt thick, leather-like straps being secured over her body – across her chest, across her stomach, and across her knees.
"Open your eyes," the stern voice of Okubo demanded. She complied without hesitation, knowing that she needed to see the faces of those who had captured her for future reference. If she survived this hellhole, she might need to identify or describe them later.
Okubo was a tall, burly man who moved with grace despite his size. His features were so cold and still he looked as if he was carved out of stone, from his craggy chin to his heavy-lidded eyes.
"Are you sure we can't have just a little fun, sempai?"
Hinata fought her instinctual urge to vomit. It was the man who had groped her earlier. He was young – an intern probably – and had the look of a pretty boy. Her mother's words echoed in her ears from so many years ago: you can't always trust a beautiful face. His high cheekbones and amused grey eyes were accentuated perversely by his lascivious smirk.
"Shut up, Kamegane," growled Okubo. "I have no patience for your antics in my laboratory. I'll have you sent home to your mother if it should persist."
The others around him snickered quietly at his misfortune and he flushed in embarrassment. "Nice one, Keiji-kun," she heard one of them mutter in amusement. Hinata took a moment during their distraction to evaluate her chakra reserves. They were surprisingly low – they should not have been, given the amount of time she had been unconscious. She suspected it had something to do with whatever sort of liquid she had been suspended in. That just made her chakra control all the more important.
Keiji turned his glare on her, clearly wanting to siphon off his frustration on a very vulnerable target – however, the new stricture from Okubo made that impossible. Hinata stared straight into his eyes. I'll get you eventually, his gaze seemed to say to her. She turned away from him, back to the stone-cold gaze of Okubo.
"Isao, hold her head still," he ordered. Hinata inhaled sharply through her nose as Okubo picked up a surgical knife and held it up to the bright, clinical light.
"Watch how I make the incision carefully," he said. "Look at depth, angle, placement…" As Okubo named off more characteristics, he slowly brought the knife closer and closer to her face - more specifically, to her right eye.
She started to struggle frantically, but Isao was holding her head too tightly for true escape. The metal stung her skin furiously, throbbing until the sting became a burn. Okubo's cut had started at the place where both shells of her eyelid met and made said eyelid flap slightly. The cut continued down her face – not too far, there was no need, and Okubo seemed the economical sort. Blood was collecting at the end of the slice. It looked like a teardrop from her vantage point. She couldn't see what they saw, but it probably looked like she had just cried a tear of blood.
"That was our first incision, boys," said Okubo, for the first time with a slight grin. All of them – they were all around Keiji's age besides Okubo, she'd noticed – returned the grin hesitantly, except for Keiji, who was still sulking.
That was their first and last incision, Hinata vowed silently.
She gathered a tiny bit of chakra into her left hand and, just as Okubo went to make another cut at the other end of her eyelid, she struck through the leather binding near her hand so fast and clean that none of the assembled scientists in training or even Okubo had much time to react.
Hinata unclasped the other two bindings in a blur of motion, before reaching over to Okubo and wrenching the scalpel easily out of his shocked hand. With the trained precision of a ninja, she slit his throat. Blood gushed out in a spray, coating her face and papery gown because she was so close. Her eyes shifted to the side – there was a smaller table next to her own with more sharp tools on it. She gathered three of them in her hand like kunai and threw them at the throats of three interns; two hit dead on but one missed awfully and lodged in his eyeball instead. He fell on the floor screaming, blood spurting everywhere. His cries roused the remaining three into action.
"Quick! Get the guards!"
One tried to run for the exit, so she went got him first. Using the still-bloody knife in her hand, she threw it and it struck his spine. He was paralyzed from the neck down, if she had hit correctly. Another one leapt at her, trying to subdue her; her hand shot forward, filled with chakra, and hit the side of his head. Blood gushed out of his other ear and she jumped slightly – had she used that much chakra? Damn.
Now there was only Keiji. He was staring at everyone in the room and then at her and then back again, as if he couldn't believe it. Maybe he was going into shock, she thought hopefully. Then she could quickly walk over there and do the deed – he wouldn't fight back. But her hope was unfounded.
"You… are just a little girl! How could you do all these things?" he snarled, standing up. She backed away from him, lowering herself into a crouch. Her eyes flew around the room. The closest makeshift weapons were too far away to be of any use. So she'd just have to do this the old-fashioned way.
As he approached, she ducked to the side, jumped up and hit his temple with the full force of her fist. Keiji was out like a light. The boy she'd hit in the eye was still on the ground, whimpering. With her foot she kicked him so that he was laying his back and when he saw her he tried to scramble away. His uninjured eye was glaring at her.
"Even if I interrogated you, you wouldn't tell me anything, would you?" Hinata asked him calmly. Her voice was scratchy from disuse. He spat at her feet in response, despite his obvious fear. The boy was clearly the good, proud sort – he reminded her of Naruto in a morbid, twisted way. Because while Naruto was proud of his village too, he would never do anything like this.
"I'm sorry to kill you, I dislike unnecessary bloodshed."
The glare was gone, replaced by his whimpering once more. Hinata plucked the surgical scissors from his eyes with a squelch, stepped back and flung it against at his throat. This time she was too close to miss and soon his breathing had stopped altogether. Her eyes slid to the unconscious Keiji.
Now, what around here could she use to tie him up?
One of the doors leading away from the main laboratory led to a locker room. She went in there because it was the only one without a keypad locking it. In there she managed to pillage a good deal of medicinal tape, which she used as makeshift undergarments, as well as a shirt and some pants. The shirt had to be tied up so that it didn't fall to her knees, and the pants had to be rolled up so that she didn't trip over herself. She had managed to find a belt so that they were prevented from falling further. It wasn't the best, but it was a hundred times better than the hospital gown.
She had plenty of tape left over to secure Keiji. He still hadn't stirred when she walked back into the main laboratory. The tape, she decided, was much too thin on its own. So she then took of his jacket and ripped it into long, thin strips about the width of the tape. Then she braided the two together.
First she tied his ankles and then his wrists behind his back, and she wrapped a few around his upper body, torso, and legs to secure him firmly. He came to as she was tying the last knot. Hinata sincerely doubted he would break free; she was an expert at knot tying. Even Kurenai-sensei had failed to escape from her knot work, and she was a trained jounin. This puffed up little noble's son didn't really stand a chance.
"What are you going to do to me?"
"Get the information I need out of you."
"Will you kill me like you so heartlessly did my comrades?" His self-righteous tone and gaze made her roll her eyes.
"May I remind you that your comrades were about to pluck out the eyes out of a fifteen year old girl and her ten-year-old sister for your own sick purposes and then likely kill them? For endangering my clan, my sister, and my village, all of them deserved what they got," she said coldly. "Speaking of my sister, where is she?"
"Like hell I'll tell you," he growled. But she could tell it was for show. He was weak-willed to physical pain, more suited to parties and politics than to sterile science or the cold life of a ninja.
"Do you really think I would hesitate to torture you?" she asked him softly. Keiji stuck his nose in the air. She sighed.
"Fine, then." She walked over to the man in whose spine she had embedded the knife and tugged it out. His head twitched but she paid him no mind. Slowly, she advanced upon Keiji, holding the knife aloft. He tried to get away, but his bonds were too tight to move much. He closed his eyes shut and waited for the inevitable –
Hanabi was being held in the smaller lab next to this one. To get into any laboratory doors, the combination needed was V-O-L-T-3-9-8-6. Down in the storage room there was another body, but Okubo was the only one who ever examined it. The lab itself was underground, in northern Kumogakure. The Raikage knew of their plans and supported them fully. Their clothes and supplies had been burned so that no record of them was ever found. As far as the outside world was concerned, they either were dead or didn't exist.
Keiji was pathetically easy to crack. All she did was press the knife to his ear as if to cut it off and he immediately spilled everything that he knew.
Now she was in the small adjoining lab. Hanabi was floating in the green liquid too. Her tube was hooked up to the same complex machine Hinata's had been. A large computer screen above constantly showed her vital information. Looking down at the numerous flashing keys, Hinata typed in the passcode that would start to drain the liquid out of the tube. When all of it was gone and Hanabi's breathing mask had popped off, she collapsed against the side of the tank. She was still unconscious. Hinata freed her, cleaned her up as best that she could, and then gave her a similar treatment for underwear – medicinal tape. She got another shirt from the locker room for Hanabi, though it was more of a dress for her.
With some trepidation, she went to the storage room.
It looked like it was an even small lab than Hanabi's that was converted into a storage room. Boxes of papers were collecting on the operating table, and things that looked like pickled organs and body parts were suspended in thick, bile-colored liquid. She looked up and down the shelves in horrified awe, until something in particular caught her attention.
Eyes. Two eyes, floating together in one bottle. Two pale, blank, Byakugan eyes.
Her body shook as she approached yet another tube. The person inside was a man – or he had been. He looked like he had been badly preserved – bits of flesh were coming off and drifting next to him in the yellow liquid. Long, dark hair fanned out around him; he looked to be around her father's height. She stepped closer… closer…
Hinata muffled her scream by shoving her fist in her mouth. She'd wanted to see her uncle again, but not like this. Never like this!
Tears wanted to run down her cheeks without restraint but she held them back. She had a job to do. She owed Neji this much.
Repeating what she had done for Hanabi, Hinata winced as his body landed against the glass of his container with a squelch. She turned around and cleared off the lab table with a sweeping hand movement. Then she opened the tube.
Hizashi's long-dead corpse fell on to her with crushing force; the bile rose in her throat and she turned away to vomit, but couldn't because there was nothing in her stomach to do so with. Her strength, born of desperation, hauled her uncle on to the table, much like she had been only an hour ago. She also took the eyes out of their separate bottle and placed them gingerly in their sockets, shuddering at the feel.
How could she preserve some of him for Neji? Just taking the body was absolutely out of the question. Taking just a finger or a toe repulsed her and seemed disrespectful. The proper thing to do would be cremation. But she didn't have enough chakra left to perform a Katon jutsu big enough to burn the body of an adult male without collapsing from exhaustion.
Frustrated, she decided she'd have to talk to Keiji – again.
"Where are your matches?" she asked him as soon as she'd sprinted back up the stairs. He huffed and looked away from her. So now he was getting a backbone? How annoying.
"Do we really need to relive the ear incident?" she said, twirling the scalpel lazily with her fingers. Keiji gulped and looked away.
"That desk over there," he said nervously. "The second drawer down on the left."
It took her less than a minute to find them. She also took a jug on the desk that was holding writing utensils, rulers, and other desk supplies and emptied it on the floor. It would make a good pot to hold the ashes in. She went back downstairs and started to clear flammable things out of the room, like the boxes filled with papers of past experiments. Hinata looked at the metal table and figured it wouldn't get hot enough to melt. Then she lit a match and set her uncle on fire.
Immediately the flames rose up. The liquid he had been encased in was apparently quite flammable. It also created a repulsive, sulfurous smell that made her eyes sting with tears again. Her time would be better spent going through those old files and looking for information she could take back to the village. Even upstairs, though, the smell was starting to creep in.
"Ugh! What did you do?"
"I'm cremating my uncle," she said, barely tossing Keiji a glance.
"You mean… that body isn't your father? We never got the leader of the Hyuuga clan?"
Hinata almost snorted at his shocked expression. "No."
Keiji looked down, and for the first time Hinata registered that he could possibly have human feelings.
"Then… my father's death was for nothing…"
"Your father's death?" She threw out in a tone just shy of rehearsed as she opened one of the boxes she'd brought up earlier and took the closest file. PROJECT EVIL EYE, it proclaimed in bold lettering.
"Yes. When I was only six years old…"
PROJECT AIMS: Reclaim use of the Byakugan to Kumogakure and Rai no Kuni and discover a method of reproducing the cells necessary to facilitate the creation of the Byakugan. Side goals: Create a powerful mutation of the Byakugan (Sharingan?) and wipe out Hyuuga clan of Konohagakure.
"…father…sent as ambassador…Konoha…"
PROJECT FACILITATORS: Minamino Okubo, Kamegane Kenji
"…pretense of restoring peace…offered a room in the Hyuuga compound…"
THIS PROJECT DOES NOT EXIST OUTSIDE OF THIS LABORATORY. NO WORD SHALL EVER BE SAID OF IT OUTSIDE OF THIS LABORATORY, EXCLUDING WORDS AND PHRASES IN CODE WITH NO CHANCE OF BEING DECIPHERED BY ANY OTHER PERSON. THE CONSEQUENCE OF BREAKING THIS OATH IS DEATH TO THE PERPETRATOR AND HIS FAMILY.
Below this disclaimer were the names of the two facilitators; next to each was bloody thumb print. She also recognized the name of the current Raikage. Newer signatures were down the page: Akumaki Benjiro, Nawaze Seimaru. Kamegane Keiji.
"…your fatherkilled him!"
Hinata turned to face the livid Keiji. "Your father was the one who tried to kidnap me. He deserved what he got for trying to ruin the peace Sandaime-sama wanted so badly." In her brief interactions with the Sandaime, she'd grown very fond of him. She never really thought of him as Hokage so much as grandpa, especially because her own grandfather wasn't really much of one. Keiji's information was interesting, but not all that useful. And it definitely didn't endear him to her, given the fact that the actions of his father had devastated her cousin and turned him against her.
"His death ruined my life! My mother pulled me out of the Kumogakure Shinobi Military Institute because she feared for me, so now I'm stuck for the rest of my life as a scientist – or as some fluffy little politician!"
"It sounds like you're more upset about the consequences his death had on you than the death itself. And you wouldn't have made a good shinobi."
"Oh yeah?! What'd you know?!"
She couldn't hold in her snort of derision this time. How could he even ask her that? She'd barely grazed his ear with that knife before he'd spilled all of his secrets to her. Suddenly she sniffed the air. The smell of rotten eggs was receding. Hinata headed back downstairs.
In the small, unaired storage space, the odor collected and intensified, having no way to filter out. Hinata walked over to the table as the remains of her cousin's beloved father smoldered; a few more embers jumped and then died completely. All that remained of Hizashi was ash and bone fragments which Hinata quickly swept into the pot she had taken off of the desk. She took a deep breath as she exited the lower lab.
Now she was free.
Hanabi was free.
Perhaps even Neji could be a little more free, once they got home… if they got home, Hinata corrected herself. In a world of death and power, there were no absolutes.
"I'm gonna be Hokage no matter what!"
Well… maybe she could make an exception in some cases.
Hanabi was still unconscious, and securing the young girl to her back was no easy task. She knew that she couldn't just carry her out – Hinata needed full use of her hands for whatever situation could arise. Eventually she took even more medical tape – she was really starting to hate the stuff – and wrapped it around them both with Hanabi propped against the tube that not too long ago had been her prison. Soon she was tied down tightly enough. She would have a lot of aches and pains when she woke up, but that would just have to be dealt with as it came.
Next she tore up more of Keiji's lab coat and once again braided together the tape and the strips of fabric. Using the resulting rope, she tied the urn that held her uncle's remains to a makeshift belt. It was clunky, not the best for movement, but there was no way in hell she was leaving it.
One last time she checked the map of the complex before stuffing it back in her shirt, along with several documents she'd obtained about Project Evil Eye. All the while Keiji was watching her with suspicion.
"So you're leaving?"
She spared him a glance in reply.
"Will you kill me then?" he whimpered miserably.
"No." This time she turned her body fully to look him in the eye. No, she wouldn't kill him - directly. She was going to make him suffer as much as possible. And in order to do that, she would need to leave him alive for the moment. After all, death was a mere instant of pain. That would be merciful in comparison to what fate would befall him for selling out his village in exchange for his own worthless life.
This man… Kamegane Keiji… she hated this man. Hinata had never hated anybody before. The rush she got from it was intense. Empowering, yes, but frightening at the same time. Hopefully, this last act of cruelty would rid her of it once and for all.
The man she had paralyzed from the neck down could hear perfectly fine. So he would have heard everything that had transpired, including Keiji's betrayal. If he kept his mouth shut until it was safe, Keiji would be doomed to a painful, humiliating life and probably execution. His family would be forever disgraced. She passed the prone, paralyzed scientist on her way out and whispered to him.
"Seal his fate."
So. Definitely a departure from my usual style. I guess this is the result of seeing so much death in the last six months. A lot of funerals, depressed friends/family and the like.
Question: is this worthy of continuation? It does have a happy ending, believe it or not.
ALSO: If you see grammar mistakes, tell me. I love to hear about them.