They walked forward, passing bushes and weeds, and finally they went through the arch – they were in Gin's territory. Sasuke stopped for a while, looking around in case there were guards coming for them. But they were very much in their own company. Kakashi sighed, waiting for any signs of moving silhouettes and such. They did not come here to go unnoticed. Despite being ninjas, for this particular mission they did not advance stealthily; both shinobi walked as noisily as they could, did not bother to watch where they place their feet. Sasuke had even managed to trample on a particularly noisy dry branch and yet, they found no one rushing out of the village.

"This is unexpected," Sasuke scoffed at the sheer silence wrapping them. "We should be greeted with fires and roars."

"Someone's coming."

The teen needed not the telling; he was looking at the same spot where Kakashi had his eyes on. The unseen footsteps were growing louder and the orangey flames they were carrying illuminated the night. Kakashi and Sasuke stood their ground, waiting for the villagers to meet them and hopefully, 1 of them knew about the arrival of a pair of Konoha shinobi – that would simplify things a lot.

"Who goes there!" yelled an old man with graying hair as he emerged on the scene.

"Greetings, ossan. We're ninjas of the Leaf, sent by the daimyo of the Fire Country to counsel Gin-sama on the policies governing this village and his clan. And," Kakashi pointed at the teen, "this young lad over here is an important guest to Gin-sama."

By the time Kakashi finished his sentence, there were at least 10 persons congregating, all bearing torches and some form of weaponry, mostly swords and katana.

"In this late hour?" another 1 of them spoke.

"Well, we miscalculated time. Apparently we reach here sooner than planned."

The folks scanned Kakashi and Sasuke from top to bottom, studying even their backpacks but there were uneasiness when they saw the kunai holster strapped to their right thighs. Their grips on their own weapons tightened.

"Ah, ossan… I've declared my purpose here in the village. I assure you, we mean no harm."

But they were still wary in their actions, glares, speeches… the Jounin could only sigh once more and wait for their response.

"If you are indeed a man of Konoha," the youngest man of the group said, "show us your identification documents and we shall continue from there."

Kakashi applauded his discretion – at least someone in the vicinity was using his brain – and beckoned Sasuke to bring out the official letters bearing the Hokage's seal – the undeniable evidence to his allegiance to Konoha. Under the dim light, the men in the front row squinted and tried to make out the words written on the paper. 2 of them nodded approvingly; whether they understood or even read whatever was written there, Kakashi could not be sure. As long as they got in, anything else did not matter.

"Satisfied, gentlemen?" Kakashi asked lightly, rolling the papers up neatly.

After a brief whispering session amongst themselves, the young man said again, "We're satisfied. But since it's so late, Gin-sama is probably resting so we'll arrange your meeting with him sometime in the morning."

"That is fine by us, good man. I take it we're allowed to enjoy your hospitality –"

"Not so fast, shinobi of the Leaf."

That voice had a rougher edge; it did not seem to belong to the crowd before them. True enough, at that announcement of a new presence, the people divided, allowing the person to walk through.

"Fools, how can you let strangers in so easily? Haven't I taught you anything about guarding the gates – ah."

He was in his prime, older, perhaps in his forties, and his tone was deep and cruel. Sasuke inwardly cringed when he honeyed his voice the moment he set eyes on Kakashi, taking in the silver tousle and the queer manner the Jounin have his hitaiate pulled over his left eye.

"To what do I owe the pleasure of having the famed Sharingan Kakashi in this humble village?"

But Kakashi did not reciprocate the make-belief warmth in the question. He replied coolly but cordially, "As what I've informed your men, I'm here on the daimyo's orders to escort someone important on his behalf and to impart his lordship's words of advice to Gin-sama."

"And he sent the best, so I see," the man smirked, his long fingernail scratching a spot below his chin. "That boy behind you, the escorted, how is he affiliated to Gin-sama?"

"He is the boy Gin-sama is searching for so ardently. If you seek more answers, I'm afraid that's the best I can give."

The grin on the man's face dulled considerably, annoyed that Kakashi had managed to shut him up when it was not his place to do so. He seemed to be pondering on what to do next but quickly disguised it with another bright smile.

"I dare not challenge the supremacy of Gin-sama. If that boy is wanted by Gin-sama, then he too shall be welcomed as much as you are, Kakashi-san. Do rest up in our guesthouse until Gin-sama is ready to see you in the morning, however –" the man added, raising his hand to halt the Jounin from taking another step into the village, "honourable guests or not, you still have to abide by our rules."

The gleam of triumph in the man's bleak eyes shone as though reminding Kakashi that he had a status to be respected for. The Jounin merely tilted his head somewhat and said, "But of course."

The man jerked his index finger in the ninjas' direction and 2 persons from the crowd came out. 1 of them actually grabbed Kakashi by the shoulder while the other tapped against his body, searching through the many pockets his Jounin flax jacket came with.

"So many weapons you equip yourself with, Kakashi-san," the man noted as kunai after kunai were thrown onto the ground. "Remove any possible items which could be used as weapons."

"Ah," Kakashi exhaled thoughtfully, "a shinobi should always come prepared. You shouldn't be stripping him of his tools."

"Surely you aren't bothered with this petty procedure," he guffawed, collecting the discarded items. "Even when unarmed, you are already a walking threat to civilians."

Kakashi kept quiet after that, allowing the villager to confiscate whatever things he deemed necessary. His stock of sharpened shuriken was the last to be taken out and when they finally gave Kakashi a nod, the Jounin smiled wryly and stepped aside, feeling significantly weight-less than before. Sasuke was about to tail his teacher when someone held him still by the shoulders, just like what they had done with Kakashi.

"What are you doing?" the teen enquired offhandedly, shaking their hands off.

"We have to make sure you're not smuggling any weapons into the village. You cannot see Gin-sama so armed," the ghastly scratchy voice explained.

"Tsk."

"Stretch your arms please, shinobi-kun."

Sasuke flung both arms out like a scarecrow, letting the man searched through his high collar and arm wraps. He could have hidden a blade in the latter but who knew, he forgot to do so for this particular mission. Luckily he never owned a flax jacket like Kakashi's; the search would be longer than he liked what with the numerous pockets and departments waiting to be opened and prodded into…

He suddenly stilled when the man's wandering hand slid down purposely from his armpits to his nipple, pinching the nubs after having them brushed with his thumbs. Sasuke found his fists balled, ready to strike the pervert squarely in his face – and that was when he caught a glimpse of Kakashi. He was watching the process, a frown building on his forehead but from where he stood, there was no way he saw what had happened, not unless he could see through the villager's body.

So Sasuke kept mum and pretended it was an accident.

The hands went lower, tapping against his hip, waist and bottom and outer thigh. His kunai holster strapped on his right leg was removed, he had expected that much, and the man returned to searching his trousers' pockets.

And then, the fingers nudged at his crotch, poking insinuatingly at his balls. Sasuke hissed, feeling anger fueling his Sharingan – and the hand became bolder and cupped at his mound.

"Hah – go to hell!"

He did not register when his elbow flew out of its own, knocking the air off the man behind him who was holding his shoulders. Freed, he drove his knee into the perverted man's stomach, hearing him spluttering as his face contorted in agony. With his other leg he swung at the man's side, throwing him into the ground – to a common human, the injury was severe enough but his hunger for more pain was not satiated. So he strode over to the lying man, intending to deal as much hurt as he could –

"Sasuke!"

In a flash, he found himself prone on the floor, his right hand twisted to his back – a strong arm holding him in place at the elbow – and someone sitting on his waist.

"Get off me, Kakashi."

He choked on his saliva as he felt his arm being wrested further back, feeling numbness seeping in his nerves. At that moment, he thought even if his teacher broke his arm, he would never bring his head down to apologise for his deed. He did not commit any wrong. He did not.

However, he only heard Kakashi's barely audible whisper, "Your Sharingan, Sasuke, shut them off."

"Aiya… what a scene, Kakashi-san. You don't have to do that to the boy," the admonishing 40-something man butted in, clapping his hand once, "especially if that boy's Gin-sama's long lost relative."

"I'm expecting a warmer welcome than this though" Kakashi said dryly, loosening his grip on Sasuke. As he got off, the teen turned to his side, rubbing his aching shoulder – he swore his teacher could have torn his limb off his torso if he put more force and will into it.

"The pamphlets, the anxiety, oh yes, Kakashi-san, it's only normal from your perspective to see us treat even Gin-sama's relative so harshly. However, only a selected few knew about his arrival uh, tomorrow morning so to have him here tonight is really not within our calculation."

"Then why did you order a body search on this boy? Doesn't this mean disrespect to Gin-sama?"

The man grinned sickeningly again, holding his index finger up in front of the Jounin. "Ah, I have to remain vigilant, don't I? Nobody told me the boy would be disguised as a ninja. Nobody told me he would arrive at this hour. Nobody told me about you."

So Tsunade's reply letter had not reached this village yet. That would explain the slight confusion.

"Anyway," he continued, waving his hand at the youngest man in the crowd, "let's put all this nonsense behind us, shall we? You'll be shown your way to the guesthouse and will remain there until Gin-sama calls for you. Is that fine with you?"

"Yes, thank you," Kakashi said a little bit stiffly.

And that was the last time they saw the man and the crowd, and the archway. The guesthouse they were led to was neither extravagant nor shabby but just comfy enough to take shelter in. As their guide bade them good night, the ninjas placed their belongings at a corner and sat on the tatami-matted floor, looking around. There was a single cupboard beside 2 bundles of futon stacked up neatly against the wall and Kakashi got up, raiding the content.

Sasuke was about to ignore his teacher's lack of manners for going through cupboards which did not belong to him but gave up as curiosity caught up, "What are you looking for?"

Chink. Chink.

Porcelain-ware clang against each other until the Jounin closed the cupboard, brandishing a plain brown bottle with a narrow neck which was corked. He removed the cover as he sat down near his student, bringing the mouth of the bottle under Sasuke's nostrils.

"Ointment," the teen commented, sniffing the content. "What for?"

"Doesn't this take us back time?"

Sasuke did not reply, understanding what his teacher had implied. At least now they were alone in their personal space; back then, just only before the commencement of the scarring S-rank mission, Kakashi had insisted healing his student's bruises on the upper storey of a boutique.

"It doesn't hurt," Sasuke muttered, corking the bottle again. It took a lot more than a twist to his shoulder to break him, a lot more.

He half-heartedly expected Kakashi to re-open the bottle again but the Jounin just let it be where Sasuke had placed it, preferring to begin his reprimand, "What were you thinking, Sasuke… you know your role, so play it well. How can you let emotions take over and have your Sharingan switched on?"

Then what would he have Kakashi know? He was never going to tell his arrival in the village began with an unknown touching his privates. He was never going to admit he was shaken with that uncalled contact – and that was the spark responsible for his outburst, his wrath.

"What happened?" Kakashi asked again, probably on a hunch that something was stirring within the teen that could possibly make him act that way. Sasuke never did anything that would jeopardize a mission.

He shook his head once, removing his hitaiate from his forehead and let his bangs flow in front of his face. And Kakashi relented, changing the subject with his next question. "How are you feeling?"

If he could remove the drugs without any repercussions, he would. But this was how being a shinobi like; the mission's interest always takes precedence. The desire to take them out and have a good night sleep and put them back first chance in the morning was only that, a desire. He knew until Gin met them, wherever he go, whatever he do, he was stuck having those things deep within him.

He understood. He understood why Tsunade searched so frantically for a sexually dead shinobi for this mission. Even as he walked, the innermost sphere kept on brushing against his prostrate, conjuring a hazy feeling of pleasure and longing for more – but the excitement was short-lived. An erection, what's more the secretion of precum, was unimaginable even in this compromising circumstance. If he could remain dry in and out, the goods would be safe… safe…

This was an elaboration of the aforementioned shinobi rule, that everything else will always take precedence over him.

Sasuke breathed out, reclining on the tatami as he stretched on his back. "This guesthouse's nice. If only the rest of the houses are the same, or better, I think I'll like this place. The people might be problematic but I can handle that."

He glanced at his teacher and saw a faint expression of… Kakashi being impressed. The teen huffed – only on the rarest occasion would Kakashi showcase some form of admiration or even amicability to his students.

"You've always been a good kid, I'm sure you can get on with the villagers fine."

"Looks like I'll have to really stay here and see for myself then."

Sasuke's black eyes were fixated on the middle region of the ceiling. And out of the blue, he wetted his lips and whistled a tune, a tune which sounded melodious to the uninformed ears but carry a deeper significance to the ninjas of the Leaf – they were going to converse in codes.

Kakashi cluck his tongue and removed his hitaiate as well before folding the fabric neatly.

"At the arch back then, did you notice the tallest building in this village? It was in the middle of this place," Sasuke started.

"That's probably Gin-sama's residence. 4 storey high… a structure of grandeur only for him."

And Sasuke cleared his throat. "I wonder if we could go there for a walk. On the roofs, under the moon."

That was the first code; they were going to complete their missions tomorrow and having their escapade at night via roofs.

"Sure, considering we'll be parting ways after I'm done talking with Gin-sama."

And Kakashi understood it; he had agreed. Just now, while they were studying the geographical and architectural layout of the place, they noticed that the roofs of the houses constructed were not far apart from each other, so much that from a distance they seem connected from the middle to the perimeter of the village, the borders.

Their pursuers were commoners, simple folks who could not use the shinobi arts. The roofs would be the best way to maneuver their way out.

"However," Kakashi began after a pause, "you have to promise me one thing before we go for our midnight stroll."

Sasuke returned his teacher's gaze. His raised his eyebrow, not actually getting what the older man was implying.

"After we part ways, make sure you keep the letters coming. Write to me so I know you don't go astray."

Sasuke nodded; he has to make sure that Gin paid the bills for the mission. It is common practice to pay first upon requesting a favour from a shinobi village but, since Tsunade had not returned reply to Gin, the latter was under no obligation to pay a single copper. Whether it was before or soon after the client received his goods, the money must go to Konoha.

Suddenly, a section of the roof gave a sound creak and dull chatters ensued. Both Kakashi and Sasuke kept their hearing acute – until the last footstep could not be heard.

"Hai…" the Jounin gave out a long, contented sigh. He lay on his back beside his student, his arms cushioning his head. "Nosy people. Lucky they weren't made to spy on us until tomorrow. The roof isn't a very comfortable place to perch on after all."

He tilted his head to his left to where Sasuke was laying, "There are no more eavesdroppers. How are you feeling, really?"

"Never better."

Kakashi smirked under his mask, slightly amused at his proud student's ostentatious comeback. He was not feeling sleepy and the other occupant certainly was wide awake, unless the black haired teen sleeps with his eyes open. So the Jounin spoke again, "What are you thinking about?"

His student rolled over to his side, away from the other man and did not speak a word.

"Aoi and Sakura?" Kakashi guessed as he pulled his mask down. He could bet his savings that he was right; whether the teen wanted to admit it or not, that was entirely up to him. Sasuke however chose to confide, "I shouldn't, not when I'm on a mission."

"Off mission or not, you still bear a human's conscience. Normally I'll beat some senses into my subordinates on-team but tonight," Kakashi yawned generously, rumpling his hair as he did so, "I'll let you go easy."

"Don't tell me you're thinking of them either," Sasuke blurted out, rising to a sitting position. Kakashi looked at him for a while but remained quiet and the teen dared not raise another question; his teacher was obviously not happy with the confession.

"They're not in my mind at the moment, Sasuke," Kakashi said, "and I can't force them out of your head. You're old enough to decide what's right to do on a mission and what's not; isn't that what you've been talking about all the while? About making your own choices?"

To be indifferent is to have no attachments, and to have no attachments is a sign of ninjas having lasted too long in battles and wars, wasted and soaked through with blood. Kakashi could do it – pushing people out of the cavern of his thoughts – but the youngster could not, probably would not, and he wanted it to stay that way. When Sasuke told him how much he wanted to be just like the Jounin, an experienced combater, a savage; he knew Sasuke had not seen life in its entirety.

"Good night, Sasuke."

-----

They woke up early in the morning, actually just after dawn breaks, in case Gin wanted to see them. In fact, the earlier, the better. And they got their wish when the man who showed them their way to the guesthouse yesterday knocked on their door at 7, informing them that Gin wished to have breakfast together. They were in the 4 storey high building in no time and were soon ascending 2 flights of stairs to the second floor.

And that was the first time they set eyes on Gin.

He was young, probably in his early thirties and did not seem very capable of governing a village. But he must have been working very diligently; even the far end corner of the dining room was jammed pack with strewn papers and scrolls. Breakfast was simple and Sasuke ate noiselessly, letting Kakashi deal with all the talking and answering. Somehow he could not quite meet Gin's gaze; it was on the man's behalf after all that he had things up his bottom.

He was patiently waiting for the diplomatic exchange to end so he could get this discomfort over with – he was beginning to feel sore – but was ultimately disappointed when a couple of maids showed up to lead them to the door. Gin apologised – and Kakashi told him that his work as a leader comes first – and said nothing but these last few words: come back to me at midnight, I'll be free by then.

So they waited some more in their guesthouse. Morning passed into afternoon, and soon aged to evening. By night, Sasuke found himself lying on his stomach; the mere action of sitting down on his posterior was proving to be more challenging to be done.

He watched his teacher brew tea at the corner, change his clothes and come back to the center of the room, settling down on the tatami beside Sasuke.

"They've taken away my summoning scrolls, in fact any scrolls with wordings in them. I still have a couple more empty ones though," the older man stated factually, opening one of the flax jacket's breast pocket. "Looks like I'll have to re-forge a summoning scroll from scratch."

He uncapped a wooden contained, revealing several tablets black in colour and a rather pungent odour. He chucked 2 into his cup of tea and swirled the liquid until it too, turned black.

"You're using that for ink?"

"There are no substitutes," the Jounin replied, dipping the end of an ancient looking brush into the concoction. "Even this brush is not meant for writing; supposed to be brushing medicine over gauges."

Sasuke gave the solitary cupboard in the corner a quick glance. His teacher must have obtained his supplies from there.

"There are guards around the area, watching us even as we speak," the older man continued, drawing in more obscure characters on his scroll.

Sasuke noticed a slight change in the room when he re-entered it after breakfast with Gin as if someone had searched the area for something. No doubt they were looking for clues, anything to make these Leaf shinobi look suspicious but they both were careful enough to erase their own traces. The fact that they were still here in the guesthouse unharmed proved that the villagers had found nothing, yet.

"Running away might be a little bit more complicated than I thought. There could be traps, hidden military weapons…"

"Are you suggesting we should eliminate these threats as we go?" Sasuke enquired.

But that would mean harming the villagers. And Tsunade had specifically reminded Kakashi to leave those people alone. Of course, at the end of the day it was for the sake of Konoha that ninjas should not take these "innocents'" lives.

"We refrain from any form of blood spilling. No sacrifices. We come for what we seek, and we leave quietly. We don't need any unnecessary chaos, Sasuke."

If they were not going to use the quick way, they would have to resort to very mild genjutsu and ninjutsu, sealing their senses and consciousness off until they could make their getaway. Though lives were no longer at stake, it was still a form of causing harm deliberately. Only bad things would be born from it.

"Done," the silver haired ninja exclaimed, blowing air at the still wet paper. "This is where we store Gin's head."

Knock. Knock.

Kakashi got up and dusted his hands; the "ink" smearing his palms were drying and caking in the grooves of his fingers and under his nails. Ruffling Sasuke's spikes briefly, he uttered, "It's time."