A/N: Chapter 3 begins with Hotaru's point of view, beginning from the time before Minako found Yugakure in ruins. We'll be switching perspectives fyi.
Chapter 3: Ensnared
Hotaru breathed out a sigh, carefully tying the front belt of her priestess robe. True enough, she wasn't a full-fledged priestess and honestly had no intention of becoming one, but these clothes seemed to fit her best and worked well with her occupation as medicine woman of Yugakure. Hotaru glanced over her shoulder into the shadowy confines of her room. It was still dark as the sun had yet to rise, but she could have walked the entire town blindfolded had she been forced too. It made her wonder exactly how long she'd been here...after the Sailor Teleport, everyone and everything she knew just seemed to disappear and now, here she was.
Hotaru walked over to where her futon was carefully kept, a small closet, and pulled from within a bag. Upon arriving here, she'd tried to make a new life for herself. Of course, she'd tried many a time to contact the Inners, Outers, even the cats, but no one ever responded to her signal and the frequency was always flat; kind of like a cell phone with no bars. Eventually, she'd had no choice but to give up trying her communicator and had stashed it along with her henshin wand and clothes from her time away into this little closet. Maybe this was simply where she was meant to end her days. Who knew?
Never mind all that, her mind tried to tell her, there was work to be done and that was sure to take her mind off of things. Once the morning prayer was over, the shrine would need to be cleaned from top to bottom in time for the midday prayer, and then a little later the evening prayer would take place.
It all happened so quickly, she could barely even piece her thoughts together. She'd been in the Sacred Flame Altar Room trying to finish up the midday prayer when he'd barged in. Truthfully, she'd smelled blood before he even arrived, but thought her nose had simply caught a whiff of something bad. He was tall, much taller than her although that wasn't too great of a feat to accomplish in of itself. His features shadowed as he stood in the light of the doorway, it was almost as if time had frozen as he nonchalantly sauntered into the room. The man carried with him a gigantic, 3-bladed red scythe. It was blood-splattered, even more so than his personage. Hotaru shuddered as she felt his murderous intent fill the room with a suffocating power and she clutched at her chest. Oh no, he truly meant to kill her! There was no way she could fight back without her Glaive and to do that she'd need the power of Saturn. Too bad it was currently stuffed into a closet back in her room.
"What do you want?" she managed to stutter out, practically touching the altar with her back. If she could lead him into the room, there was a good chance she could try to get around him or at least try to duck from a swing of his scythe.
"So you're the last one..." he drawled out, it definitely not being a question. "You know, I think I might keep you alive. You seem useful." Hotaru's eyes scanned back and forth over the room, looking for weapon of some kind. Something in her gut told her that he was familiar although she definitely couldn't place him, especially since his face was still slightly shadowed, his empty eyes practically shining with blood-lust Before he could even take another step towards her, Hotaru bit back her tears, reaching her hands into the still burning embers and quickly threw them at his face.
He growled in pain, reeling backwards as he clutched at his eyes, furiously rubbing an arm across them to discard the embers. "You fucking bitch!" he roared, blindly swinging the 3-blade scythe directly at her as he did so. Hotaru screamed in panic, quickly assessing that going through the door was not an option and instead was forced to crawl behind the altar to avoid the slashes. She winced and covered her eyes, tears flowing freely now, the sound of metal on metal deafening within the small room. "You'll pay for that...aah, fucking whore..." he growled out, staggering over towards her, one still clutched in pain.
Hotaru yelped as he grabbed a hold of her arm, violently jerking her to feet. She fought back as best she could, but he was rather strong, and finally it resulted in her being dragged by the hair once he saw tugging at her arm was useless. As he pulled her hair harder, Hotaru screamed and flailed at the pain and uncertainty of what was going to happen to her. She barely noticed as the belt she had tied so carefully earlier snagged on the altar and pulled loose. She wouldn't give him the pleasure of looking at her body and quickly reached one hand down to close her robe back up.
As she bumped along the small staircase that lead up to the shrine, she felt something wet seep through her clothes. It was blood no doubt, and she let out another scream. Finally, he seemed to get tired of dragging her hair and let loose on his grip. She quickly saw a chance for escape but it and her hope quickly died out at the same time and he hooked the scythe to his back before grabbing her about the waist and flinging her over his shoulder.
"I figured you'd be light enough to carry." he laughed, now able to ignore the welts and heat coming off from his eyes...it was actually starting to feel better. See? She was already proving her worth. She gave a struggle, legs kicking and tiny arms pounding against his backside but to no avail, it just made him release more crazed laughter. That is, until one of her blows made contact with the back of his head, causing him to growl. He aptly returned the blow to the back of her head with much greater force despite the odd angle at which he held her. He knew she'd passed out by the stillness of her body, and with a shift of his shoulders, continued on his way out of the village.
Hotaru awoke with a throbbing pain in the back of her skull...ugh, it's where that strange man had clocked her after she'd hit him. She couldn't recognize her location immediately, but she could smell grass and dirt...safe to say she was outside then, possibly somewhere inside or a close to a forest? But how did she get here? Did that...that murderer decide to drop her off here for some reason? Did he think her dead...or maybe he planned to come back for her?
Hotaru found she could hear no voices, just the lonely chirp of a single bird overhead somewhere. But what if he was still around? She slowly cracked an eye open to look around...nothing that way but a dark forest of trees. She hazarded a quiet roll over, giving a fake groan to add to her overall sleeping facade. Again, she slowly opened her eye and scanned the area like before, just barely able to make out a shadowy outline near a low-burning fire. It had to be him...that tall, unmistakable figure had to him. You didn't just forget details about a person who was sure to kill you.
Still, he appeared immobile, asleep most like if the dimming of the fire was any indication. If she was really quiet, she could try to sneak away...but then what? Try to get help would be the obvious answer if they were dealing with an ordinary person here. She'd seen what he'd done to the village as he dragged her out of the temple. There was no way anyone could still have been alive after all that...and before she'd passed out, she even heard the cries of an unfortunate passerby being slain as well. Whoever this creep was, he was a maniac and a monster. All she had to do was quietly inch her way over, then she could stand up and make a run for it. Even if he did hear her and wake up, she'd have a nice head-start and since night had already begun to fall then it was super easy to lose him in the forest. Now, all she had to do was actually try to move...that was actually the hard part...
Hotaru wiggled over some, turning back over onto her other side so that her back faced him. Using her tiny feet and hands, she grabbed handfuls of grass and pulled herself along the brush of the Earth. By doing this slow movement, she risked only wasting time but that she could live with; it was much better than accidentally stepping on twigs and branches. When she could feel leaves between her fingers rather than grass, she knew she had only a little more to go...just a little more then she could stand up and run.
It happened quickly, she jumped to her feet and sprang forward. Forgetting her decency, she failed to close her robe as she ran...now was not the time to worry about someone seeing her half-naked. Of course she had no idea where she was running either, just running in a straight line to escape his grasp. Being lost in a forest was much better than being around this crazy man.
Her brain barely had to process the insane shrieking sound that met her ears before she slammed into something. Had she...had she hit a tree? An animal? She could have sworn there was nothing there a minute ago...no...her thoughts turned sour as she looked up to see what she had hit.
"We're not ready to leave, bitch, come on!" It was him, that...that...him. He reached down to grab one of her ankles as she quickly tried to recover from being stunned; she wouldn't let him take her away like this, not again!
"No!" she squealed, lifting her other leg in an attempt to kick him back, but he just as quickly grabbed her ankle, leaving her with both legs in the air.
"Why the fuck are you fighting me? I haven't done a damn thing to you yet!" he yelled down at her, his face still just barely visible in the darkness of the forest. If she had to guess, he was still covered in blood and looking a ghastly sight.
"That's what I'm afraid of! Please...just let me go...I just...I just want to go home." she pleaded with him, tears immediately pouring down her red-tinted cheek...why on Earth had she thrown her leg up at him like that. This position was...
"Tch, you wanna go back to that fucking...tourist site of a village? I'm hoping that shit has burnt to the ground by now. It's what they all get for being weak!"
"You're a monster..." she murmured, clenching her eyes tight and covering them with her hands. She couldn't bare to look at him anymore, not even caring that she had probably interrupted.
"Of course I am! I'm a shinobi. Shinobi are supposed to be ruthless killers. That entire village used to full of shinobi but they got weak and deserved to die." he seemed to explain, still tightly holding onto her ankles, it was the only way he could think of to keep her from running away from him again.
"Then why didn't you kill me too?" she cried out, preferring for him to go ahead and do so at this point...she'd become separated from her friends with no way back home and no way to get in contact with any of them. If she died then maybe...maybe she'd be reborn back in their world as a baby again. No...that was selfish. If the other senshi died then they couldn't come back unless Serenity used the Ginzuishou or Pluto allowed it with Serenity's permission.
He fell silent. Good question, but it was simple really. He had a kill quota, a certain number of victims that Jashin required of him to make each day just as he had a number of prayers to make too. He'd grown quite fond of his new found religion, the thought of it actually making a smile creep across his face...there really had been no other way for him. Why her though? It wasn't her per se, just the fact that she was a warm body. It would likely take him a day or two to make it to the next village, and since he'd gone overboard with his killings for his first sacrifice (just as the religion commanded he do), he hoped that this girl's death would at least tie Jashin over until then, after all, she was pure...probably had never killed a single thing in her life. Maybe the dark god had a preference for these kinds of sacrifices.
Hotaru shivered as she stared back up at her captor...he'd grown strangely quiet as he stared down at her; if she hadn't already been uncomfortable then she certainly was now. What was he thinking about? How to kill her most like, she decided and closed her eyes again.
"Because you're useful to me. Now get up...or do I have to drag your ass back?" he asked, pausing only to drop her legs back to the ground. Hotaru blinked, drawing her legs up closer to herself more on reflex than anything else...that was it? She'd mentally prepared for the worst and all he'd done was let her go? Well, she shouldn't have thought like that in the first place...she was barely 16 and not really...
She jumped to her feet, the man already a good bit ahead of her, "No." she stated simply, glaring at his backside.
"What was that?" he practically growled, casting a glance over his shoulder.
"I said no. There's no way I'd ever go anywhere with a...with a murderer like you."
Hotaru could feel the back of her head slam into a tree trunk, the full force of his body hitting her head on and thrusting her backwards. He held her arms over her head, her fingers just barely able to graze a low-hanging branch. "Fine bitch," he snarled, "you can just stay here for the rest of the night then." From somewhere, he produced a cloth strip, possibly something fashioned into a belt like the one she'd lost back at the temple. With lightning speed, he tied a thick, sturdy knot to encase both her hands overhead despite her struggling, screaming, and sobbing.
He laughed as he stepped back, seeming to enjoy his handiwork. "Hope you don't freeze to death," he joked as he turned to head back to the clearing where they'd started out at. She continued to struggle more all the while, doing her best to wriggle out of the knot, to somehow untie it, or possibly even break the branch. It was useless though and all she ended up doing was tiring herself out.
Why...why was this happening to her? What had she done to deserve this? She wanted to home right now, sitting in their living room with Harkua, Michiru, and Setsuna around her. She shivered as her head drooped downwards in a defeated manner; nighttime was here now in full force, the moonlight barely able to pierce through the branches of the trees. It was getting colder too and although her priestess robes had been sturdy, they just wouldn't protect her fully from the cold weather. She whimpered as her stomach began to growl...of course, she hadn't eaten anything all day either, it was no wonder she had no strength to fight against him. She could sense he was strong and that fighting back was probably pretty pointless...her henshin wand...by now it was probably nothing more than ash, however, she'd never tested its resilience. Perhaps it was just laying in a pile of ash. If she were lucky, someone might even find it and...she passed out.
"This is so awful..." Minako murmured as she continued to search through the contents of the burning wreckage of the temple. So far, she'd only found bodies but not a single one of them left alive. They'd all been killed in a very precise and consistent manner...almost as if the killer had practiced doing this task. It made her shudder to think about that.
This village was actually rather small despite its initial appearance, with the very end of the village being marked off by the temple. She thought some survivors might have fled here to hide and wait out the carnage. It was silly of her to think this might have all been done by one person...this was practically the feudal era so it might have even been a group of bandits or something riding by.
The temple itself had once been quite grand, not the steps anyhow since they definitely didn't compare to the ones back at Rei's temple. The inside had probably once been elaborate, but some over-turned torches had seen to that and had burned a good portion of the building. It wasn't impossible for her to practically walk through walls to get where she was going as they'd been busted down.
She headed over to what looked to be common quarters for the priests and priestesses, a place that hadn't seen too much damage. She hated the thought of rummaging through the items of the dead but there was something shiny that stuck out to her...Minako carefully made her way over fallen debris to get to it.
"This is..." Minako whispered sadly, bending on one knee to fish out the familiar object from where it had fallen in-between two floor boards. "Hotaru-chan..." Minako held out the purple henshin stick, still untouched from any destruction. It shimmered with an otherworldly sheen, a beautiful shade of amethyst purple. Minako held back the urge to cry as she held the stick to her chest...she and Hotaru had never been especially close, just good friends. But the idea of losing a friend, and one that was a senshi no less, was extremely painful...Hotaru was young too. She had her whole life ahead of her with a new, unpossessed body. It just wasn't fair.
And maybe, the thought that Hotaru hadn't been that far away was also another reason her chest was hurting. So...Hotaru had been brought here too...had they been brought here at the same time? Which one of them actually got here first? There was no way it couldn't have been Hotaru, their henshin wands had no equal. All this time and she never knew how close they were.
"I'm sorry Hotaru...the Sailor Senshi weren't here to back up you up this time but I swear...I'm gonna do all I can to find the others and get us back home." As long as Hotaru's henshin wand was still here, then she wasn't dead...not completely. They could easily bring her back with this. She carefully put the henshin wand into a pocket inside of her book bag She hoped that would be the only henshin wand she'd come across with no senshi attached with it. If Hotaru had been brought here, then surely some of the others must have fallen here too. True, she had her obligation to Yuki to do her job as she just couldn't bring herself to let anyone down but finding the senshi were her main priority now...she just had no idea where to start and night was beginning to fall fast.
Hotaru's eyes fluttered open weakly. It took a moment for her body to register everything around her and about her...her arms were strung up overhead like a piece of a meat, both limbs tingly from lack of blood flow. She was very cold still, the sun having only just come up, and she could feel her body shivering from it. She wanted to be warm, to just wrap her small body up inside of a giant blanket...she'd more than likely be sick after this. Damn him, she cursed weakly, finding her throat dry from lack of water too.
Hotaru's head slumped downward again. At the very least she could take comfort in the fact that the woods seemed to be devoid of life other than birds as nothing appeared to have messed with her. Her robes were still barely holding together and by looking down she could her tiny breasts poking out from fabric...she even surprised herself when she found she was no longer embarrassed by this. It didn't matter that she couldn't close her kimono-like top, there was only she and this murderer out here. He'd already seen her like this so what did it matter? Again, tears began to drip from her eyes...she just wanted to go home.
"Awesome, you're awake already..."
She didn't look up, not wanting to acknowledge the fact. She didn't want to see his face. It was disgusting...he disgusted her. She wouldn't give him the pleasure...her arms fell free, a simple pull from him on the knot and it was gone. Hotaru collapsed to her knees, practically face-planting in the cool leaf-bed at her feet, watching the binding that had held her arms trickle down to rest in front of her face.
"Hurry up, we're burning daylight here. It'll take us awhile to reach the next village and-HEY! I said get up!" he ordered, using his incredible strength to drag her onto her feet. Again, she refused to look at him and hung her head in silence, teary eyes cast downward at the ground. "That's how it's gonna be, huh?" he asked, irritable now. Forget this little slut, he didn't need her anyhow. All she was doing was slowing him down. If he had to keep waiting on her or carrying her around, he'd never make it to the next village in time, and he'd be damned if he'd fail Jashin this early on in the game. "Have it your way then." The man dropped her arm from his grip, causing her to slump back lifelessly to the earth, grabbing his 3-bladed scythe from behind his back as he did so. If she didn't want live a couple more hours then that was her problem, not his. With a grunt, he effortlessly lifted the weapon over his head and swiped it downward with the intention to cut rather than kill...maybe now he could try out that curse ritual technique that Jashin had promised him.
But his scythe missed her as she rolled out of the way, that piece of cloth held tightly in her hand. "Tch, see, I knew you just weren't gonna give up and die. Are you coming or not?" Was this the ultimatum? He seemed to await her response as he swung his weapon over his shoulder. Hotaru sat up slowly, contemplating about using the cloth strip to tie her robes up...then she thought of a better use for it.
"Just where are you planning to go? What will you do when you get there?" she asked flatly, failing to sound cold in her tone like she had wanted.
"That ain't your business, bitch, I do what I want. All you need to worry about is coming with me."
"If you plan to kill me then the least you could do is tell me what will become of things."
He paused, seeming to think this over for a moment as his mouth turned in confusion...okay, that seemed fair he supposed, "Simple, I'll head to the next village over and kill more people in the name of Jashin-sama. And you, lucky little you get to be one of my sacrifices. However, you still have a use to me right now so...you can live for now. If you promise to behave from now on-"
"I won't let you do that!" she yelled, charging at him with as much speed as she could muster from tiny, sore body. She had no idea where she'd found the strength, but she managed to tie that strip after his neck and pulled as tightly as she could. Her thoughts were rapidly flying through her head...she was killing a human...but he was an evil murderer...still this was murder too...but this was kill or be killed, it was self defense!
"What the hell are you doing? Is that supposed to hurt?"
Hotaru gasped, looking down at the body she was currently straddling and strangling. He had a silver eyebrow cocked up at her in confusion, his face showing no sign of reddening or swelling and his breathing hadn't changed even in the slightest. No...how was this even possible? The grip she went lax, letting the cloth fall from her hands. He laughed, "That's the most pathetic attempt to kill someone I've ever seen! Besides, I'm immortal, stupid." She was shell-shocked to say the least, barely even reacting as he sat up and brushed her to side as if she were a light feather. Immortal? It had to be some kind of trick. No one in this dimension should have that kind of power...right? Only she and Setsuna should have been-
"Now that we're done wasting time, let's get going. You don't want to stay here forever, do you?" She shook her head 'no'. At the very least, she might be able to keep him from killing anyone else even though he said he had plans to kill her. "The name's Hidan by the way." he informed her as she quietly began to tie her robes up with previously discarded cloth strip. She had to find a way to kill him, he couldn't be an immortal, there was just no way. Everyone had a weakness and she was gonna find it.
Minako held a hand to her head to block out the blaring sun...seriously, what was the deal with this country? The nights were freezing and the days were hot! She pulled out her map and compass and tried to make sense of where exactly she was. She was clearly far away from Sunagakure...and if she continued on this way, she would end up in Otogakure, then an unnamed gray country on the map, and then if she went farther, she'd end up in Kumogakure. Hmm...should she press her luck and go this way? Otogakure was a small village, maybe he was planning to hide out there...sound logic right?
It would probably take her another day of walking, maybe only half a day if she had a cart of some kind to ride. Besides, every day she wasted, that meant Kakuzu could be getting farther and farther away from her...assuming again, of course, that she was even going in the right direction. Man, this is exactly why they needed technology! A tracking device sounded pretty good right now. Come to think of it, she hadn't even seen any wanted posters of this guy...maybe he really had laid low for quite some time.
Another day...running wouldn't help her situation, it would just tire her out quicker. Man, this really stunk.
"Fuck...I knew I should have gotten a map or some shit...fuck, how much longer..." Hidan cursed under his breath, already dreading the idea of walking. The tinier girl who walked some feet behind him had been mostly silent, refusing to answer anything he asked her. He'd learned her name was Hotaru but that was about it. She definitely wasn't one for conversation.
"I don't know...I already told you that. I'm not from this area..." Hotaru murmured back under her own breath, seemingly picking up the habit of turning away from him whenever she spoke.
"Well isn't that just fucking wonderful?" Hidan growled, stuffing his hands into his pockets as they continued to walk. They'd been walking for the better half of a day, they should have been there by now dammit. He decided he'd keep her alive until after they reached a village but now that seemed like an awful idea.
"There's something on the horizon," she stated simply. It was quite obviously a town they were coming up on but there was no telling what actually awaited them there. She only hoped that she could somehow protect whoever it was he'd tried to kill. A little further ahead there was a signboard that read Otogakure. The village Hidden in Sound...she'd never heard of this place. In fact, she'd never heard of anything else outside of Yugakure, the village all she had known of her world since she'd arrived.
Well, she had been on her way, just minding her own business...that was of course until she came across a body literally lying in the middle of the road. After having seen so many dead bodies back at the village, Minako was still a little unnerved by the sight of it. It was still light out, so this guy seriously picked like the worst napping spot ever. Still, it wasn't like anyone had actively been going up and down this road or anything. Should she leave him there? Maybe try to pull him off to the side at least? It seemed the most decent thing to do in this situation...Minako decided she'd check for a heartbeat just in case...she couldn't stomach the thought of touching a dead body now.
She lay her ear to his back. Hmm...that was strange...either this guy had an irregular heartbeat or he was having a majorly bad nightmare...sounded like a million heartbeats all going on at once. Poor guy, Mina noted as she grabbed a hold of his shoulders and try to pull. She didn't get far before the fabric of his gray tank top slipped from her hands and she fell backwards...whoa, he was a lot heavier than he looked. Giving a slight grumble, she stood back up and dusted the back of her khaki-color shorts and readjusted her blue jean jacket that she had tied around her waist from the heat. That's just what happened when you tried to do something nice for somebody she supposed.
With any luck she could at least roll him over to look at him, that might even wake him up. Using all of her strength, she braced her boots against the ground and pushed him over, accidentally landing on top of his chest as she did so from the over-exertion of power.
"Whoospie," she giggled embarrassed, trying to brush it off in case he was coherent. She didn't want this guy getting the wrong idea, she told herself as she pulled herself back off of him. Almost immediately she fell back onto her butt...his face...it was like...and now that she looked down at his arms...they were...they looked like they were held together by thread. Wait a minute, she quickly pulled off her back-pack and pulled out the file she'd found on her desk the morning she'd left. Her crystal blue eyes stared long and hard at the picture before she hurriedly began to glance between him and the photo...hmmm...something did seem really familiar here.
The picture she held in her hand only showed the eyes of Kakuzu, red eyes with piercing green pupils in the center. His other features were hidden by some kind of mask, a special kind of headband apparently as a village symbol was still visible, the lower half of his mask was concealed by the same type of material. It was kind of like a ski-mask. This guy in front of her had no mask on and his eyes were closed...but something about his facial structure had her thinking otherwise.
"Guess there's only one way to find out..." Minako gulped as she put the file and picture back into her back-pack, unable to keep Shibuki's words out of her head. This guy was a for real heart-snatcher! He didn't just steal the crystallized forms of pure hearts, he actually ripped the very organ from your body! She grimaced, a blue line surfacing just above her nose...all she had to do was pull up one of his eyelids...no big deal...she could just take a quick peek and if it wasn't him then she could just go on her merry way and not worry about it. But what if it was him? What then? She couldn't call for help...she could certainly transform into Sailor Venus and hold her own but she definitely didn't want to be around when this guy decided he was hungry for another heart.
"Okay, okay!..." she seemed to pep-talk herself, slowly reaching forward. Just one quick peek, that's was all...Almost there, almost there and...
An olive-colored hand shot up and grabbed her wrist. He was awake, and his grip was nothing short of vice-like.
A/N: Wow, I haven't updated this one in forever. Found this chapter half written in one of my folders so apparently I tried to start it but just never got the urge to finish it. I should be more concerned about my finals but writing fanfiction helps me relieve stress lol.
So, I'm probably going to take the story in a different direction. The previous humor factor (if it was ever actually there) is going to be toned down bit. And since I don't see any notes about it I'm probably going to scrap the pairing of Rei and Itachi unless I really get some inspiration to write it. Sorry guys! I'll go back later and edit the previous chapters so it's not misleading. Also, I'm contemplating raising the rating for some naughty business I'd like to see happen but that's just me. The story is totally fine without it but...some input would be nice. What do you think? Reviews are much appreciated because I love talking to people.