"That's weird..."

Hidan slowly looked down at the mess. Everything was in the right place. All his vital organs were jabbed right through. His opponent was dead.

Or was he...?

Something stirred in him. He was supposed to be feeling the last moments of his opponent's life writhe away in his blood. This time, however, the writhing didn't stop. And it'd been more than an hour.

The Jashinist eyed his opponent closely from the ritual circle. The man's chest did not rise or fall. He remained motionless, a grimace plastered onto his bloodless wide-eyed face. He looked dead enough.

Hidan slowly shifted his gaze left at his partner. Kakuzu was sitting by the wall with probably the most bored expression on his face. Correction: his eyes. There wasn't really much of Kakuzu's face to be seen, just his glowing green eyes. But even they could manage to look as bored as bored could ever get in this situation.

Now that was telling him something: he'd been too long at his ritual.

Kakuzu caught Hidan's eye. A slight movement in those eyes asked accusingly: "You done yet?"

"Yo! 'Kuzu, do me a favor wouldcha? Please! Pretty please? Couldcha go check if that guy's dead?"

Kakuzu raised his eyebrows.

Hidan blushed. His partner was probably silently criticizing him from behind that mask. Never had he not been able to tell if a person was dead. And never had a person not died during one of his rituals. He bit his lip and waited for the inevitable, getting ready to selectively tune out Kakuzu's mocking critique.

"How much would you pay me?"


Although it wasn't any nasty critique (which he actually felt a little bit relieved about), it still pissed him off. Well mostly everything Kakuzu said normally pissed him off, but what kind of low life cheap bastard goes around asking payment for something as simple as checking to see if a guy was dead?

"We're behind schedule by half an hour. That leaves us only two hours to get to our next location, which we obviously won't make in time now, and knowing how the S.J Gang operates, I'll have to pay them for keeping their guys waiting. So since it's entirely your fault we took so long, you're going to have to pay me some compensation."

"What the hell?! Why do I have to pay you just for checking if he's dead?"

"Why couldn't you do it yourself?"

"Because..." Hidan paused. "Because it doesn't feel as if he's dead dammit!"

Kakuzu raised his eyebrows again. "What do you mean?"

"Shit I don't know! It feels weird okay?!"

"Hmm..." Kakuzu checked the fallen ninja.

"It's like there's this weird life force that's running around and it won't fucking stop!"

"He's dead."


"He's dead."

"You're serious?" Hidan swallowed. Then could it be...?

Kakuzu poked the corpse in the face. His finger left a dent in the dead man's cheek. "Yeah. He's dead."

Shit, he thought. Have I lost my touch? It was the most embarrassing of all embarrassing things. A ninja was supposed to always know if his opponent was dead or not after a battle. It was second nature to them.

So how the hell did he, who specialized in torturing and destruction, just go and lose his touch overnight? I mean, weren't these kind of things supposed to happen slowly, like Parkinson's or Alzheimer's? Wasn't there supposed to be some kind of a symptom first before you just lost something like that? A tremor or a twitch somewhere? Hidan flinched. OMFG Jashin Sama why the hell didn't you at least WARN me first??!

Hidan closed his eyes and tried to breathe in calmly until his normal skin color took over his black and white ritual tone. He felt lost. Betrayed. "Jashin Sama! Give me SIGN??!"

He felt a sharp kick to his side. "What the fuck! That hurt like shit dammit!"

"Oi! You two!" A third Akatsuki voice rang out from behind the clearing of trees. Kakuzu prodded Hidan a little with his toe.

"Get moving."


The blonde strode up to them, readjusting his lenses. Deidara had been watching the duo from his position in the sky.

"Hidan, you took unusually long un. We're seriously behind schedule because of you. Why'd you have to go through all those complicated rituals, un? I mean, you could have just easily exploded his face or something. It'd have left pretty cool blood spatters around him too."

Hidan smirked. As much as the two didn't get along, he sometimes found Deidara's artistic passion for destruction quite intriguing. It almost made him appreciate the man.

It was highly unusual for Akatsuki to send its members in groups of three for any mission, but Tobi was sick with a cold and insisted that Deidara nurse him back to health. And much to Deidara's chagrin, everybody else was quick to agree to Tobi's request that he act as nurse. Two days of putting up with a runny-nosed Tobi (who refused to take off his mask throughout the ordeal, irking Deidara with all the images of mucus collected somewhere at the bottom of that mask) resulted in Deidara getting extremely edgy to the point of almost exploding the Akatsuki hideout. That's when the leader decided Deidara needed some time far, far away from Tobi, so he sent him on today's mission along with 'the zombie brothers'.

Hidan picked up his scythe and 'equipment'. He looked at the blonde and glared.


The hitchhiking 'life force' in him did a roller coaster ride once more and then settled down quietly somewhere inside him.

Deidara glanced over his shoulder, made eye contact with the very pissed off and slightly anemic Jashinist, and smirked.

That was when the unwelcome life force purred...