A/N: I got into the best University in my country. (It's a small country) Yeah! Let's celebrate with a new chapter! I'm sorry this took long, I've been busy with University Applications! They're hellish!
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto and I never will.
He spent the whole night trying to piece together his mind-altering machine for submission today morning. It was a tough struggle to come up with the science and workings behind the machine but an even tougher job to develop the idea.
As Shikamaru glanced around the classroom, he can't help but marvel at all the different machines his classmates developed in such a short time like himself. They look pleased and worried at the same time. Before he could allow his mind to wander any further, a male walked into the classroom with a cage of guinea pigs on one hand and a miniature labyrinth on the other.
"I assume that you have your machines before you today," he asked with a nasally voice as he gently placed the cage of guinea pigs on the table and the labyrinth on another, "to test your machines, we would be using guinea pigs!" he mentioned to the cage, "these guinea pigs have been trained to reach the end of this labyrinth without making any mistakes and retracing their steps. Your job today would be to make them forget their footing and lose their way."
The male whipped out a clipboard from his lab coat and called out the first student to present their work.
The trails went on for 2 hours and the people before Shikamaru either failed to make the guinea pig forget, killed the guinea pig or their machine seized to work.
"Nara Shikamaru," the man called.
Shikamaru stood up coolly with his contraption in one hand and paced to the front of the classroom to work his magic.
"Ok, now here we go," the man said as he placed the guinea pig at the entrance of the labyrinth.
Shikamaru had his fingers crossed at the guinea pig made several right turns here and there. This project has to work, this would only bring his closer to resolving the whole matter and bringing Temari out of hiding and, god, he missed her so.
"It seems we have our first successful experiment," the man said breaking Shikamaru from his thoughts, "lets try this on a few more guinea pigs before we are sure of it's success, shall we?"
Shikamaru's heart only blossomed with every guinea pig that failed to reach the end. His project is working perfectly.
After the tenth guinea pig and after watching the same failure over and over again, the man was sure enough to award Shikamaru an A. He then requested that Shikamaru teach the class on the workings of the machine as well as it's operation.
It took Shikamaru an hour to explain everything full so the class of geniuses would comprehend his creation. Whilst he was presenting, he couldn't help but feel that the man was marking him down with his gaze. From the front of the classroom, Shikamaru noticed, for the first time, how protected this room is. There were cameras at every corner watching every angle.
"Thank you Shikamaru," the man said when Shikamaru was done, "now that we have that settled," he pulled out a stack of papers from his desk, "like every school would be administer a pop quiz; so return to your seats and get your stationery ready for this is going to challenge your limits," he handed out the worksheet to every student, "you're not restricted to any subject, any topic… there are no limitations and no time limits. Complete this test or fail to carry on in this school." He glanced at his watch, "you may begin."
Everyone was on it in no time, so was Shikamaru. He noticed that the sheet of paper contained nothing but numbers from top to bottom and that's when it struck him- the crytext. He quickly scanned the paper and found the set of numbers he memorized from the forth cryptext. A sudden worry struck him; he glanced around the room and realized that though he might be the only one with the successful mind altering machine, he might not be the only one to solve this code. The more Shikamaru inspected the classroom, the greater his concerns grew.
"But of course," he thought to himself, "the mind altering machine is to erase the memory of those who solved the code! Damn it! So much trouble for my own demise. Troublesome."
Shikamaru has to be the only one to solve the code and he can't let anyone know that. He considered calling for help, but his cries of aid would only be seen by one of the many cameras.
Just as he was at loss as to what he should do next, a boy from the first row raised his hand. His actions shocked Shikamaru; he couldn't believe that someone could've solved the crytext so quickly.
The examiner paced towards the boy in hurried footsteps and bent over to observe his work. However, the boy stopped him.
"Damn this school," he said a loud unfazed by the examination setting, "I give up on this test, I'm going back to normal school."
With that, the boy got up and walked out of the classroom. The examiner did nothing to stop the boy nor did he send anyone after him, the man just kept whatever was left on the desk and resumed his job.
Shikamaru took that as an answer to his way out; he has to memorize the code, bail from the classroom and return home to solve the code before anyone else in the classroom solves it.
She waited until the entire hideout fell into a stable silence before she stepped out of her assigned room to venture around the place for an exit. Outside stood the usual table with stray pieces of paper all over and at the other end of the room beheld her exit and the only way to exit from the hideout.
Briskly, she made her way to the metal door and tried her luck with it. None- it won't budge. She frantically looked around for any sign of help like a key or a button to open the door but all she was greeted with was a digital combination pad.
"Really?" she groaned as she allowed her shoulders to fall, "there is absolutely no way I would be able to crack the combination! Damn."
Temari started to walk back to her room with little hopes of retrieving the necklace that is so vital for the book. She considered calling Shikamaru for help but when she thought about it more, she realized that the only reason she hasn't been in contact with Shikamaru was for his and her safety.
When all hope was lost, Temari's eyes caught sight of an object that had always been there but she never paid much attention too- a wall clock. As she was about to turn away, she noticed something very peculiar about it- it told the wrong time.
"Why would the Akatsuki keep a clock that tells the wrong time," she asked herself, "in their meeting room too."
Then a possibility struck her.
Temari ran towards the digital combination pad and entered the time shown onto the clock into the pad.
She did a small leap of success when the metal door popped open automatically as the right combination had been entered. Without a moment's delay, Temari raced out of the hideout set for the apartment.
"They're all coming," Hinata said after she got off the phone with Neji, "Neji's going over to get Tenten, she's being discharged today. And Shikamaru's doing some inside work in his school."
Ino flipped her phone close and beamed at the girls, "Naruto is our look out today! He'll inform us of any Asu-Kure activities!"
Sakura nodded at the two girls as she continued to make markings on the map of Konoha. Ino and Hinata came next to her to look.
"I'm marking out all places that Sasuke definitely would not be at," she explained as she continued to make more X's around the map, "I'm also marking out all the places we've investigated yesterday. How the scanning going Hina?"
Hinata walked over to the computer to check the scanning progress, "nope, it hasn't progressed much in picking up Sasuke's hand phone signal. Maybe they're underground Sakura."
Sakura sighed and reclined back in her seat. She hasn't been able to sleep a wink last night due to what happened in the school. Hinata and Ino would never ask about it but Sakura cried for a few hours into the night.
"I think Sai's here," Ino said in a less than chirpy voice, "I hear his car pulling up!"
True enough, two men made their way to the front of their porch to ring the doorbell. Sakura prepared herself and made herself presentable by washing herself whilst Ino pranced toward the door to welcome her boyfriend and his brother.
"Good morning sunshine," Sai greeted her like how he normally would and gave her a peck on the forehead like how she likes it before entering the house.
The brothers made themselves comfortable around the dining table with Hinata and Ino. They were discussing about Hinata's transfer when Sakura came out from the toilet.
"I've heard America is an awesome place!" Ino exclaimed joyfully, "and the branded stuff there go for a cheaper price!"
Shino nodded, "we've been there a few times," he looked towards Sai's, "with the brothers and our foster parents for some kind of back packing trip, it was pretty awesome. They have some awesome natural reserves with tons of amazing bugs."
"Art is everywhere," Sai added, "the architecture, the people… everything is a work of art."
Ino took Hinata's hands excitedly, "art! You'll like it there! I'm so happy for you!"
"We'll send you off on Saturday," Sakura said, joining in on the conversation, "me and Ino that is, I don't know about you guys."
"Definitely," Sai smiled, "wouldn't miss it for the world."
The doorbell interrupted their talk. Ino was, yet again, the one to answer it. As she threw the door open to welcome the people, she couldn't help but break down in tears when she saw Tenten. The blonde did not hold back and hugged her girl in her most loving bear hug. It took Tenten several seconds to process that the only person wild enough to do such a thing would, undoubtedly, be Ino.
"Are we late?" she asked whilst in the tight embrace.
"Better late than never Tennie," Ino muttered through her tears, "better late than dead."
Tenten sniffed a little upon hearing Ino's touching remark, "I missed you guys so much. I miss Temari a hell lot."
Shikamaru raised his hand.
The examiner was by his side in an instant. Shikamaru gave a tired, restless look and slumped in his seat for effect.
"I give up," he muttered with an almost drowsy voice, "I'm getting out of here."
All the man did was give Shikamaru a knowing look, gave him a few pats on the back and wished him the best of luck. Shikamaru then got up and briskly made his way to the exit. He didn't really shred the act until he was at least a few blocks from the school and even then, he still felt as if he was being watched.
With the numbers of the code firmly imprinted in his head, Shikamaru made his way to the girl's apartment to spill the code and solve it.
"Where's Shikamaru?" Shino asked casually observing that the said boy isn't present.
"He's out carrying out some…" Ino thought for a moment, "fieldwork."
"Fieldwork?" Sai grinned, "you mean he has a lead?"
"His school," Sakura explained, "he suspects that his school has some links to the cryptexts. After all, someone has to piece the puzzles together and break the code. Anyway, here's what we've got so far," Sakura said as she spread out her map across the table for the gang to see, "the red crosses are areas that we have investigated."
Shino pointed to several spots, "I suggest to we checks on these areas every so often, they seem like convenient places to move into."
Neji was reclined in his seat shuffling his tarot cards in his hands, "well, we shouldn't search too hard though. Granted we're narrowing down the places Sasuke might be at, but we're, too, zoning in on Temari- we really can't accidentally find her, we're always being watched by Tsunade and now, quite possibility, the Ministry."
If it hadn't been for Shikamaru's keen eye, he wouldn't have noticed a familiar face amongst the crowd whilst he was making his way to the girls' apartment. It took him several seconds to pin a name to the green haired, partially pale, partially dark male with an inhumanly tall stature.
"Zetsu," he thought to himself sounded slightly panicky in his head, "what is he doing here?"
Given the current circumstance, he decided against approaching Zetsu, in fact, he thought breaking the crytexts to be a matter of higher urgency and thus, he headed towards the apartment.
The further he ventured, though; he couldn't help but notice how Zetsu has been using the exact same path as him. He felt like a stalker; following Zetsu into clearer paths.
Shikamaru half prayed that Zetsu wouldn't feel his presence and half wished that he and Zetsu as not due for the same destination.
However, his fears were affirmed when Zetsu stopped abruptly on the street across the girls' apartment. Thankfully for Shikamaru rather quick reflexes, he withdrew himself and hid behind a wall; thus having a clear view of Zetsu, the road and the house.
Shikamaru watched as Zetsu pulled out his cellphone from his pocket and dialed a number.
"Pein," Zetsu spoke when his call was answered, "she's in the apartment. What do I do?"
Temari managed to agiley sneak into the house she knew so well about through the bedroom room window at the back of the house. Before she did so though, she made sure that absolutely everyone and anyone in the house was accounted for in the dinning room.
The room hasn't changed much since she left; Sakura's books are everywhere, Tenten's game sets are strewn across the floor, Hinata has her painting materials laid out in a neat corner and Ino's clothes decorated the whole place.
But she didn't come her to reminiscence the past, she came her for the necklace.
Temari quietly crossed the room for the drawer she kept all her items in. She was careful when pulling open the drawer for it makes a kinds of old, worn screechy sound when moved. It took her while to move aside everything neatly to retrieve a case she hid so deep in the drawer. After that, she was careful to place everything back to its original position as if it hadn't been tampered with.
She opened the case and lifted the necklace to observed its splendor. It reminded her so much of one of those trinkets Ino hung on her bracelet. It's been such a long time since she last accessed the necklace; so much so, the key has formed a permanent indent on the sponge lining of the case.
It took a lot of will power not to go out into the dining room, where everyone is at, and give each of them a hug so that they'll know she's alright.
"I've also found out that Tsunade is trying to track down the Akatsuki, I believe she intends on killing them. She believes Temari is with them, but she doesn't care even though Temari was never her target."
Temari overheard Sakura's loud voice saying.
"Well, is she with the Akatsuki?"
"We can't be too sure. But whatever it is, it might pose as a threat."
As she walks by the bedroom door, she is stopped by the sound of a ringing phone. In a moment's panic, she searches for her phone only to discover that the Akatsuki took her's away. It then dawned on her that the ringing was coming from the house phone.
She recognized the chirpy voice as Ino.
"Mrs Ten! Yes, Tenten is here with us. Yes, the doctor's discharged her earlier today so Neji brought her here, sorry we didn't mention it before… Oh yes. Yup, she's fine."
Upon the mentioning of her foster parents, Temari can't help but feel overwhelming guilty for putting them through so much. Even worse, for lying to them; she heard it from Kakashi and Anko about the National lie Gaara made to assure everyone that Temari's in Suna with him.
This voice belongs to Tenten.
"Gosh, I'm fine, you don't have to worry so much; Neji's taking good care of me. Hahaha… Very funny, you make it sound as if I've lost all my limbs! I'm only blind, no biggie."
Temari had to cover her mouth to prevent her gasp from escaping. She wishes she didn't hear it correctly, but she knew she did- Tenten is blind.
Deciding that things were too much for her to handle and that if she lingered longer, she might just give herself away, Temari threw all her worry aside and headed to the window with the necklace at hand.
But the luggages at the side of Hinata's bed stopped her.
She examined the bag tags and it indicated an American address to deliver the bag to in case it got lost.
"Hinata's going to America?" Temari thought to herself, "what?"
She walked over to Hinata's dresser and quickly found her flight details written on a slip she has on the table.
"She's migrating? I-"
She glanced at the object creating the sound- Pochi. There was slight panic that rose in her chest, she quickly made her way to the animal and gave it a stroke.
Temari knew she had to leave now, but there's something holding her back. She isn't sure if bringing the necklace back to the Akatsuki would be more good than bad. After all, they haven't been clear about their intentions for helping her. Additionally, she has this rising suspicion that they're only keeping her safe for reasons such as the existence of such a necklace.
"Quiet Pochi!" she hissed at the creature, "shush!" '
"POCHI! QUIETEN DOWN! WE'RE HAVING AN ADULT CONVERSATION HERE!" Ino hollered from the dining room.
Without time to go back to the drawer to hid the necklace back in it's original position, Temari turned to hiding the key in Ino's bracelet.
Everything happened so quickly; she pocketed the case and pulled the key from the necklace, slid it onto Ino's bracelet effectively hiding it among the other charms. She swipe one of the many picture she had of her foster parents before she made a run for it.
Seconds after exiting through the window did Ino enter the room to check up on Pochi.
As she turned to leave, she spots Zetsu walking up to her from across the street. She made no attempt to run for she knew it would be futile, instead, she walked up him meeting him halfway.
"You're going to reprimand me for sneaking out," she predicted, "I missed my friends, what can I do?"
Zetsu's expression did not change, "I trust you're not dumb enough to make them aware of your presence."
Temari smiled, "of course not. Let go back."
When Shikamaru observed Zetsu walking towards the house, he instantaneous pulled out his cell to warn his friends.
However, the mere sight of Temari froze his actions. He watched as Temari calmly walked up at Zetsu and merrily conversed with him as if nothing's wrong.
It was agonizing to watch them walk away like old friends that haven't met in a long time. He wanted so much to go up to her and steal her away from Konoha and away from all this mess… but he can't; the mess is bound to follow them.
As Temari and Zetsu disappear off in a distance and Shikamaru heads into the house, a familiar figure stops outside of the house to retrieve something Temari miss placed- a photo.
"Oorchimaru, this is Haku," said the person, "I have something very interesting to share with you…"
"Shikamaru?" Ino asked, puzzled, when she greeted the door, "what are you doing here?"
"Temari just left the house?" he asked without answering her question.
Ino's eyes grew wide, "no… we haven't seen her… what do you mean?"
Pochi made a dash for Shikamaru from the dining table where he laid on and clawed onto his leg demanding Shikamaru to pick him up.
Ino seem to connect many things together during that short period as she gasped out loud.
"Gosh, no wonder Pochi was being unusually skippy today!" she exclaimed, "he must've saw Temari!" she paused and frowned, "but why didn't we see her?"
"It must've been for your safety," Shikamaru said entering the house with Pochi in his arms, "where was Pochi?"
"In our room," Ino answered, "oh. Oh. What was Temari doing in the room?"
The rest heard what Ino had to say and their ears perked up instantly. For Hinata and Sakura they got up from their seats prepared to react when necessary, for Tenten, she spun towards the direction of Shikamaru's voice with an empty yet expectant gaze.
"To leave a note? To give you guys something? To take something?" Sai suggested.
"I think you guys should check," Shino said looking that the present four occupants of occupants of the room.
Without thinking too much, Sakura, Ino and Hinata left for the room to identity any possible changes.
Whilst they were working on that, Shikamaru copied out the whole code from memory and presented it to the remaining few left on the table.
"This," he beckoned to the series of numbers, "is the code; the combination of all the crytexts."
Neji, Shino and Sai stared wide-eyed at the document in front of them while Tenten merely sat on her chair helplessly. It took the three boys a few minutes of examination before concluding that they are unable to solve the code.
Shikamaru sighed and decided to take matters into his own hands and attempt to solve the code before any one in the academy does.
"Juugo," Sasuke called out from his cell, "how did you get your part of the cryptext anyway?"
"Mine was hidden within this marble monument of the school's crest," Juugo explained, "all I had to do would be to smash the marble and retrieve the cryptext. Why?"
"Well," Sasuke flipped through the pages of the newspaper, "it says here that something incredibly strong must have caused the marble monument to crumble like it did. Care to explain that?"
Juugo remained silent for a while, "well, I kind of have some unexplained form of super strength."
Sasuke stood up from his position and held the bars of his cell, "then why didn't you help us break out of this goddamn place earlier?"
"He said he would let us go with the antidote."
"Only if he finds the Book!" Sasuke argued.
"If we break out like that, we won't get the antidote," Juugo retorted calmly.
"I know where the antidote is," Suigetsu joined in the conversation enthusiastically, "but I need someone to cover me if we're going to go get it."
"Is this is a plan we're formulating?" Sasuke asked with the most enthusiasm anyone has ever heard from him.
Karin walked to the bars of her cell and looked at the other three with the most worried expression, "I can cover Suigetsu. I have sensing abilities, I would be able to sense when Orochimaru's coming."
"I like some peace guys."
"Come on Juugo!" Suigetsu whined, "we might never get out, do you really trust that old snake's words? Seriously?"
Karin tried to get as close to Juugo as possible and put on her best puppy-dog face, "please Juugo, I can't die here."
It took Juugo a while to consider his options and a little more to accept that there were none.
"Ok then. Sasuke, what do you have in mind?"
They've been searching the room for the pass four hours and there was nothing out of the ordinary. They can't spot the difference and identify what has been there or what isn't there anymore.
"Hinata!" Ino exclaimed amidst the search, "come over here! I have something for you!"
Hinata was by the blonde's side in seconds with a questioning look on her face. The blonde only responded by holding a charm bracelet out for her.
"This is for you," Ino beamed, "wear this and remember me forever."
Ino pulled Hinata's hand up and wrapped the bracelet around her wrist, "isn't it pretty? It's my favorite one… and I'm giving it to you."
The raven-haired girl smiled as she examined the little trinkets on the bracelet, "thanks Ino," she felt teary as she said it, "of course I'll remember you forever."
Temari felt a tugging on her shirt as she and Zetsu were walking through the crowd. Temari stiffened because she was certain that the tug meant someone saw through her disguise. She looked over to Zetsu for some kind of advice but Zetsu only beckoned her to respond to the tugging.
Temari spun around only to find a young boy around the age of four standing behind her. He was grinning and held out a photograph for her.
"I believe you lost this missus," he saw quickly in his childish voice, "bye!"
Temari took the photograph for him and heaved a sigh of relief; it was just a kind young boy returning the photograph she didn't realize she lost.
She turned to Zetsu who showed no care for what had just happened and they continued to make their way back to the hideout.
Shikamaru gathered all the working he made into a stack and stood up. The others looked at him questionably.
"It's getting late," he explained with a hint of lethargy in his voice, "I'll continue to solve this as soon as I get back home. I have more appropriate equipment at home to help me."
Sai nodded, "I'll inform the girls that you left. Tell us when you solve the code though."
Shikamaru smiled weakly, "if I can solve it."
Their plan is flawless.
Juugo is to pull apart his bar to escape from his cell, then he'll help crack open the glass closure of Suigetsu's cell to allow Suigetsu to seep through the cracks. Karin would be the next one to be released. While Juugo is working on releasing Sasuke, Suigetsu would help activate Karin's sensing abilities to help pinpoint Orochimaru's location.
When the coast is clear, they would exit the dungeon facility and Suigetsu would lead them to Kabuto's room where he knew the antidote would be at.
They'd steal a sufficient amount of antidote and follow Juugo out of the place, as he knew the place well enough to get out cleanly.
Since the hideout is located in a forest on the outskirts of Konoha, they would find the nearest stream to rest and inject the antidote into their system. After that, all they have to do would be to follow the stream upstream to Konoha.
"We strike first thing tomorrow morning," Suigetsu suggested, "ever since he brought me in, I've always noted that he'd leave in the morning to report to Danzo. That's how I found the opportunity to go out every once in a while… but back then, it was easier to roam around, Orochimaru knew I would always come back because he has the fucking antidote to hold me down and because he could take me on alone."
Sasuke took his phone out of his pocket, prepared to set an alarm to waste no time the next morning, "what time do you suggest we get going?"
Suigetsu thought for a moment, "eight."
Much to Temari's surprise, the rest of the Akatsuki didn't seem bothered by the fact that she sneaked out of the hide out. In fact, they were almost nonchalant. She entered the hideout during the middle of a meeting session. Kakashi and Anko just nodded at her as she freely walked by the table into her room.
When she's alone, Temari took out the photograph from her back pocket and examined the cheery faces of her foster parents. No matter how unrelated they are she would never, ever call anyone else her parents for they were the ones who accepted her and brought her up. Looking at the photograph brought a smile to her face. Unintentionally, she flipped the photograph around to look at the back, to her surprise; she saw words that she doesn't recall writing on the back.
I have them.
I'll have you before 6 tomorrow or Hell shall have them.
Before she could break into a wild reaction, she heard the door close.
Temari looked up to find Pein looking down at her. She was about to beg Pein to help her parents but Pein beat her to it.
"Where is it?" he asked sternly, "where is the key?"
"Pein, you have to help me-"
"The key, Temari."
Temari pulled out the chain from her pocket and handed it to him, "have the stupid key. Pein, you have to help me-"
"Is this the key?" Pein asked as he examined the key charm on the necklace, "are you sure?"
"Yes, I am sure," she argued eagerly, "you have to help me-"
"I really don't like guessing games Temari," Pein interrupted her for the hundredth time, "but I guess I can't avoid this one since you refuse to tell me the truth."
Temari sensed where this was heading but before she could get up and grab on to Pein before he left the room, he slammed the door in her face locking her in the room.
No matter how much she banged the door or screamed for Kakashi and Anko, no one responded for the door is a sound proof one. She looked around the room, desperately trying to find a way to escape or at least a way to contact her friends, but there was nothing but a bed and a few commodities present to aid her.
"FUCK!" she hollered helplessly.
She tried to push open the door by running into it but all she got was a bruised shoulder. Temari glanced at the clock and realized that it's already close to midnight; every minute that passed brings her parents closer and closer to dying.
"KAKASHI! ANKO!" she screamed in vain, "HELP!"
No help came.
Temari isn't the kind of girl that would beg for help, she has too much pride for that. But when she has to choose between her pride or her parents, it would be a no brainer. And as she slumps down against her bed, she can't help but feel more helpless than she did the last time she was at Suna; engaged to be married to Itachi.
She wished she had enough hope in her to convince herself that everything would turn out fine, but somehow, after the incredible turn of events, she has been drenched of all the hope and possibility.
Then she thought about the blind Tenten and how she would cope with the loss of her biological parents. That thought was enough to make Temari break down in tears- something Temari claims of not being able to do.
A vibration shook him awake. Sasuke tried to reach out to stop his phone from the ruckus it was creating but he soon found out that he isn't able to move a limb. That discovery itself is enough to completely wake the Uchiha.
Apparently, the others present didn't expect his consciousness in the room; they gasped when he woke.
Sasuke found himself strapped to a metallic chair like structure with a metal bowl attached to his head. In front of him stood a group of people dressed in white coats and holding on to clipboards.
"What do we do?" one of them asked, "he's awake! We never encountered this problem with the other two!"
"Other two?" Sasuke thought as his eyes wandered across the room.
From the corner of his eye he spots Juugo sitting in a chair next to his in a similar state. He recognized Suigetsu and Karin lying unconscious on the metal tables behind the men in white.
"WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO TO THEM?" Sasuke growled.
"What we're trying to do to you; erase the memories you had of the cryptext," one of the braver men in white said, "please cooperate, we don't know what side effects carrying out this procedure on conscious patient would entail."
Sasuke tried to struggle out of the chair but the straps tightly bound his arms and legs to the chair. He thought fast and figured that his only way of breaking loose form this would be to wake Juugo up.
"JUUGO!" he hollered, "JUUGO WAKE THE FUCK UP!"
The men in white tried to shush him but didn't make any attempt to go up to them.
Sasuke could've leaped for joy when he witness Juugo stir. Juugo's react made the other men panic as they were aware that the bigger man would be able to break out of the pathetic chair in a heartbeat.
"S, Nara solved it."
Ms S got up from her seat and face the reported, "are you sure?"
"The signal transmitter Nakamura attached to Nara says so."
"Has he told anyone the solution?" she asked.
"No, he fell asleep from the extreme fatigue," the reported said, "we should initiate the operation now."
Ms S nodded and pulled out her cellphone, "Danzo, please dispatch a team to the Nara Residence, we have a memory to wipe clear."
"Nara Residence?" he asked, amused, "we're using his own invention against him? Brilliant."
"Danzo," Orochimaru said as he entered the man's office in the government building, "here are the documents."
They can never be too sure of their privacy in the government building so Danzo instructed Orochimaru to use the term 'documents' to refer to the cryptexts.
When they finally found and assembled the cryptext, Danzo felt it would be necessary to safely keep the cryptext away from potential danger. Thus, he would be flying to America with the cryptext to store it in one of the safe holding banks where no one would be able to find it.
Danzo took it from Orochimaru's grasp calmly and unsealed the envelope to examine it contents. Without taking them out he nodded and smiled to Orochimaru commending him for his good efforts. Before Orochimaru could turn to leave, though, Danzo stopped him.
"We've solved it Orochimaru," he said quietly, "Nara solved it."
Orochimaru turned to face Danzo bearing a unfazed expression, "I suppose you're going to wipe him memory clean too. What about the others that has seen the code?"
Danzo shook his head, "I won't touch them. After all, the significance of the code is merely that of a test to them. Now, your remaining job would be to catch hold of Sabaku No Temari," he paused himself, "or rather, Temari Ten. She here, in Konoha, I can see past the lies her brother and her boyfriend spins."
Orochimaru simply smirked, "I have that all under control. I just ordered Zabuza and Haku to kidnap her foster parents-"
"WHAT?" Danzo half yelled at the man, "DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH TROUBLE THAT WOULD BE FOR ME TO COVER UP?"
"Much trouble it would be," Orochimaru muttered slightly offending by Danzo's yelling, "but it would reap benefits that's worth all the trouble."
"I had to cover up for your little kidnapping scheme of the four kids and after that, I had to falsely create four personalities to reenroll them into their school for just one day," Danzo complained, "Orochimaru, you better know what you're doing."
Before Orochimaru could retort with a definitive statement to reinstate Danzo's trust in him, he received a phone call that he wasn't expecting. It was from the hide out reporting to him the distressing information that Uchiha Sasuke managed to escape from the place before anything can be done to wipe his memory.
Not wanting Danzo to suspect his abilities, Orochimaru remained calm and hung up. He returned his attention to the expectant Danzo who asked him what the phone was about.
"It was Zabuza," Orochimaru lied, "he was reporting the progress of the Tens capture. Danzo, I have to go now, apparently Zabuza and Haku have encountered some kind of problem."
It didn't take Orochimaru long to return to the hideout since it was too early to Konoha to wake. When he got to the location, he was shocked to find Juugo's dead body on the ground, Suigetsu's and Karin's unconscious bodies lying on one side of the room and a group of timid scientists crowded at the other.
"Is he dead?" Orochimaru asked the scientists as he kicked Juugo's limp body with his leg, "how did this happen?"
One of the leading scientists stepped forth to offer and explanation.
When Juugo became fully conscious he easily detached himself from the chair, the scientists, upon witnessing Juugo's brute strength stood back and watched as Juugo released Sasuke from his chair.
"CALL OROCHIMARU!" one of the scientist hollered.
Juugo and Sasuke glanced at each other and then to the two unconscious beings further away.
"This is not Orochimaru's hideout, the antidote isn't here. You must get out of here and find an exit," Juugo instructed, "I'll get those two and follow your path. If he miss each other, we would meet at the river 6 miles due east from here."
Without further questioning, Sasuke fled from the site rather easily without disruption from the scientists. However, unfortunately for Juugo he wasn't able to execute his part of the plan as smoothly; as he made his way to the two, one of the braver scientists threw a bucket of water on to him in hope of stopping him.
Unfazed, Juugo ignored the attempted and continued to make his way to Suigetsu and Karin. It would've went well if it weren't for the meddling of another scientist; he stepped forth and threw a bare cable to Juugo's direction. When the wires made contact with his damp skin and hooked itself onto his clothing, Juugo received a electric shock wave too strong to survive through.
Within seconds, they had Juugo lying dead on the floor.
"We can still catch up to Uchiha," the scientist offered, "we know where he's headed to."
Orochimaru shook his head, "no, it's too late for that now. We have to activate the serum."
"But that would kill him!"
Orochimaru glanced at Juugo's dead body, "it is the same amount of effort to cover up for two deaths as to covering up for one."
BEEP BEEP BEEP
Sakura jolted up from her sleeping position in response to the alarming sound coming from the computer. She got up from her spot on the spinning chair and lazily walked to the computer glowing brightly amidst the darkness.
The screen displayed a detailed map of Konoha, however, there was a flashing red dot in the forest. It took Sakura a while to process what it meant, but when she did, she wasted no time and dashed out of the house without informing anyone else.
"Sasuke," she thought as she started Neji's car parked conveniently outside the house, "I'm coming."
According to Orochimaru's orders, the scientists are suppose to transport Suigetsu and Karin back to their homes so that they'll wake up the following day with absolutely no peeking suspicion of their involvement with the cryptexts.
Suigetsu's body was relatively easier to handle as they simple had to transport it back to his apartment, correct the dates on his calendar, restock his food supplies and amend any signs of vacancy in the apartment.
However, in Karin's case, they had to clear the apartment of bloodstains and any sign of struggle found on damaged furniture as well as to clear out some of her vanity products as if she had been using it daily since she was robbed from her home.
When Karin and Suigetsu woke up hours after the scientists left, everything that occurred from the first mentioning of the cryptext up to yesterday never occurred in their memory.
Suigetsu and Karin never met.
He didn't know how long he took, but Sasuke just kept running and running and running even though his legs were worn numb. Every so often he would turn around to check if anyone is following him and to keep a look out for Juugo. He didn't expect too much out of that guy, after all, Juugo would be tailing him with two dead-like bodies with him.
Somewhere along the way, Sasuke started to wander if he got the right direction thus explaining how Juugo hasn't appeared after such a long time. He would stop and check the compass on his phone- south- and he'd continue running.
It has occurred to Sasuke to call for help but when he did, none of his phone calls seemed to get through. Then he realized he got an email from the telecomm services claiming that his line has been cut- so no calls, no texts, no Internet, no communication. Orochimaru thought of every possibility.
It was about an hour's run to the river and when he finally reached it, he knelt down and devoured whatever water his hands are able to scoop up. Sasuke collapsed at the riverbank and panted like he's hyperventilating.
Sasuke only got a few minutes of rest before another kind of pain struck him- the effects of the serum. He winced and rolled around the dirty as the pain slowly spread all over his body. Sasuke held on to his abdomen when he felt the foreign substance invading his organs. Though Sasuke is not trained in first aid in any way, he knew that this kind of pain isn't a natural pain; he knew the serum is working in his body.
It hit him that Juugo would be similarly affected by the serum and thus, wouldn't be able to make it to the riverbank to meet him.
He never envisioned his death to be anything so dramatic and… lonely. He'd always thought he'd die of old age in the comforts of his home. But lying on the riverbank and struggling to ease the pain somehow proved him wrong.
Juugo isn't coming.
Neither Suigetsu nor Karin was coming.
He'll be all alone this time.
As he rolled about the ground, he caught sight of his reflection on the surface of the river. He stopped there and stared at himself despite the pain. Sasuke saw that the once handsome, masculine and cool young man has degraded to the likes of a weak, pale and dying young boy.
Sasuke didn't flinch when he heard a car driving through the uneven land of the forest or when the car pulled up near by. All that occupied his thoughts is the boy in the river.
Amidst the self-loathing and depression, he caught sight of another reflection on the river's surface- Sakura's. It shocked him greatly to see her in the water and it shook him to a greater degree to hear her voice calling out his name.
"Sasuke?" she murmured, "is that you?"
He panicked. Just seeing himself in the river revolts him, he doesn't want Sakura to have any of that.
"Go away Sakura," he says with a strong, uninviting tone.
Sakura knelt down behind him and twined her arms around his waist, hugging Sasuke from his back. He felt her warmth seeping through his dirty clothes and staining his icy cold blood. Sasuke shifted his hand to hold on to one of Sakura's hands placed on his chest.
"Where have you been?" she cried into his shirt.
"To hell and back," he muttered noticing his voice come out hoarse, "and it looks like my time back would be a short one."
Sakura released him and forced him to turn around to look at her. Reluctantly, Sasuke gave in and got up to face her.
He hasn't changed much since she last saw him in the school, the only noticeably difference about him is that he isn't Kimimaro and that his skin has paled beyond belief. Just by looking at how it seems almost translucent gave Sakura the chills; she felt as if his touch would be like frost in the summer.
"We have to get you to the hospital," she argued as she tried to pull him towards the car.
He didn't budge. The pain wasn't the one stopping him though; it was the hopelessness of it. Sasuke let go of her hand and laid down flat on the ground.
"I can die any moment now," he muttered weakly, "I can feel myself dying."
Sakura wiped off the tears that were rolling down her cheeks, "that's why we have to go now!"
"We won't make it Sakura," Sasuke snapped, "just let me be."
Sakura knelt down beside him and took his hand, "I can't let you be! You might to die, but I don't want you to. Don't leave me Sasuke. Please."
"Do you think of me?" Sasuke asked earnestly as he looking into Sakura's teary eyes.
Sakura nodded causing a few drops of her tears to fall onto Sasuke, "all the time. All the fucking time."
"Then I won't ever leave you."
Sakura released a fresh batch of tears as she buried her face in Sasuke's chest. He brought his arm up and stroked along her spine ever so gently.
"Does it hurt?" Sakura asked.
"Its exactly how I imagined dying would feel," Sasuke said, "lie next to me."
Sakura obeyed and laid next to Sasuke. He wound his arm around her neck and she buried her face in the crook of his neck breathing in the familiar scent he always held. Sasuke pulled her close enough to feel the heat from her body brushing against his skin and the feel the consistency in the palpitation of her heart whilst his was dying away.
In the event of Sasuke's death, Sakura and Sasuke shared a moment they should've shared a long time ago; they shared a moment of silence and peacefulness that was shrouded with nothing but thoughts of what had been great and wonderful about their lives. They came to realize that they were given many chances and yet took them for granted and only when they're about to lose something do they truly understand the value of it.
"At least you have a fairytale ending," Sasuke commented breaking the silence, he felt as his heartbeat neared a deadly halt, "A pair of star-crossed lovers…"
Sakura cried, "we were never meant to be."
"But I'll love you anyway, my dear Sakura."
"Missing teenagers Suigetsu and Karin have mysteriously been recovered in their apartment with absolutely no recollection of what had happened to them. We'll now move on to Hozuki Suigetsu's apartment with our representative Okubo. Okubo please-"
"This is Okubo reporting live from Hozuki Suigetsu's apartment. A few months ago, Suigetsu was one of the teenagers suspected of being kidnapped by a notorious sex trafficking ring in Konoha. Today, the landlord found him in his apartment when he heard some strange sounds coming from Suigetsu's apartment.
"Suigetsu can you explain to us what had happened to you these past few months?"
"I… I don't remember, I felt as if I've only been sleeping all this while but yet I still feel *beep* worn."
"Do you honestly have no recollection of the previous events or are you… sworn into secrecy?"
"Sworn into secrecy? What? *beep* no. I'd like to find out what has been happening all this while too. This is *beep* up man… Gosh."
"There you have it, Suigetsu has completely no idea what has been happening to him these past few months. We'll now be going over to Shumi over at the other victim's apartment. This is Okubo reporting live from Hozuki Suigetsu's apartment. Over."
"Where do you want me to take your body?" Sakura asked quietly as she laid her head against Sasuke's chest, her superfluous tears drenching his shirt.
"I don't really care."
"Hi, I am Shumi reporting live from Karin's apartment for the Daily News, it appears that her neighbors found it strange that Karin's vacated house has been producing some odd noises this morning and they called the police to investigate. Turns out, we do not find a dead body like they did the previous time they were called to the scene, instead, they found a teenager sleeping soundly in her bed. Now I have to my right, Karin.
"Karin, would you care to shed some light on your whereabouts these past few months?"
"I… I don't know what I have been doing… the dreamless sleep seemed to stretch so far back I don't even recall going to bed."
"Very unusual it seems, very similar to that of the previous victim we just interviewed. Since you were before, supposedly, kidnapped by the same group of people, I'm guessing you'd be well acquainted with Hozuki Suigetsu?"
"Well, she appears to-"
Ino switched off the television after hearing what she needs to hear. She turns to Hinata and Tenten sitting on the dining table desperately trying to contact Sakura. When they woke up today morning to discover that Sakura's gone, Ino demanded Sai and Shino to go out and look for her in case she might be in danger. When Neji stepped out of the house to discover his car is missing, he decided to join in the search party leaving Ino, Hinata and Tenten at home.
Hinata panicked for a moment for fear that she wouldn't be able to see Sakura before leaving for America the next day. Tenten feared that Sakura might've been kidnapped like how Ino was and Ino felt that it was very uncharacteristic of Sakura to leave without saying anything.
They have been searching for hours and hours and it was nearing the afternoon. Sakura has been missing for over five hours.
Ino wanted to lodge a police report but Neji advised her against it for it might just put Sakura in greater danger.
Just as Ino was about to grab her coat, leave the house and join the search party the doorbell rang. Sensing it either be one of the boys with information, Ino ran for door and swung it open. Instead, she found a dirty Sakura with a tear infested face and a shaken expression.
"We have to tell the police!" Neji argued with a slightly aggressive tone, "SASUKE IS FUCKING DEAD!"
That sent Sakura into another crying spree with waterfalls flowing out of her eyes.
After breaking the news to the brothers, Sakura still held the record for being the most emotional about Sasuke's departure. The brothers were depressed as well, but they kept it in, Sai especially. The two others were more pissed than sad.
"We can't let them know," Sakura spoke up after a while, "Sasuke told me they've already erased Suigetsu and Karin's memories. If we alert the police, they might link the two cases and just ruin the start of their brand new lives."
"Fuck Suigetsu and Karin!" Neji cried angrily, "this is Sasuke we're talking about Sakura. Sasuke is dead!"
"OH MY FUCK. I KNOW," Sakura yelled back, her eyes just overflowing with tears, "but that was what he wanted, that was what he demanded from me please respect that."
Neji threw his hands up in the air in utter frustration. While he wanted to fulfill his brother's final wish, he also wanted to seek vengeance for him. This seems all to surreal to him; his brother is dead. The boy he grew up with is dead. Neji felt a hand on his shoulder, he turns to realize that it's Tenten's and at that moment, Neji could not help but feel so disbelieved about their current plight.
In the background, Ino was holding on to Sai who was struggling to cope with the influx of emotions from the first death he's feeling while Hinata and Shino have been standing at the side quietly grieving.
Sakura's sniffing softened and she wiped off her tears with the back of her hands. She glanced up at everyone who gave her their attention. She bore a fiercely determined face and nodded at all of them.
"Hinata's leaving tomorrow," she said softly, "let's prepare to bid her farewell."
Loss. Loss: there is just too many.
Unbeknownst to them, there are more lives at stake here.
"It looks like dear Temari isn't coming after all," Zabuza said as her watched the time, "well, we'll still have to keep up with our end of the bargain, Haku."
The boy next to him nodded and paced slowly towards the two figures bound to chairs and blindfolded. He tore of the blindfolds one by one to reveal the faces of their captors.
Mr. and Mrs. Ten were puzzled to find faces that were unfamiliar to them. Being gagged, they weren't able to plead for freedom or ever ask why they're in their current predicament. They could only watched in horror as Zabuza and Haku took position in front of each of them and aimed a gun to their faces.
A clock at the side rang; signaling the arrival of six o'clock.
Two gunshots were heard.
Temari could not do anything about it.
The scientists laid Shikamaru back into his bed gently and did the same for the butler. Before leaving, they were careful enough to remove any evidence and rip off the foolscap sheet Shikamaru made all his findings on.
Their job was done.
A/N: Ah~ Chapter 25 is done! I'm sorry about Sasuke's death, but really, this is not the last you'd read about him! Fret not! He'll come up sooner or later! Remember we still have no idea what secrets the highly coveted book is keeping! Yeah! Thanks for all the support and love!