WELCOME to the end of the end! Woo! or maybe it's sad... I'll leave that up to you folks. Enjoy! [I still don't own Naruto or any of the characters. If you thought I did, you need some help.]
One more day, twenty-four hours, until he would, hopefully, receive a new mission and be once again out of the village. On a mission he could keep his mind clearer and focused. He spent the sunrise at the memorial stone until other jonin and chunnin began arriving at the training grounds for an early morning spar. Rather than risk being disturbed, he made his way back through the village towards the forest on the other side.
His mind was playing tricks on him. For the briefest of moments, as he passed the complex where Anko's apartment was, he thought he smelled her, but she hadn't been there for months. Early spring had passed bringing on a mid-summer that seemed to mock him. It was cooler than usual and the drenching rains had lasted this far. With a last glance at the complex he took off to the roofs, moving swiftly to escape from reality, even for a few hours or even a few brief moments. That and he saw Gai and was in no mood for another of his 'challenges.'
Anko woke slowly, her muscles sore and aching slightly from lying on the floor. Blinking, she found herself in her apartment. How'd she get here? She could have sworn she fell asleep in bed last night, not on her living room floor. A glance at her clock told her it was 8:17am. Grumbling, she made her way to the kitchen and found it… empty.
There was no food in her apartment except some instant ramen she kept for last minute missions. Sighing, she put some water on the stove. While waiting for it to boil, she hopped in the shower, feeling as if she hadn't bathed in a week.
The water was scalding hot against her flesh, causing her to wince at the pain. Looking over her body, she fond new scars and a few bruises she didn't remember having, or getting for that matter. Angling her back at the mirror, she saw three very red -somewhat due to the scorching shower- scratches. They were all about five inches long, but only deep to have drawn blood for maybe a minute tops unless pressure was being applied. Just starting to heal, they were maybe a week old.
Pulling on her civilian cloths, she tugged her hair into a low ponytail, much different from her normal spiky locks. It was just enough to keep it from her face. Getting ready had taken her all of seven minutes.
Pouring the now boiling water into the ramen, she let out another sigh, she seemed to be doing that a lot today, and wondered who'd made off with her food. It was probably another dare. Some stupid or drunk gennin or chunnin must have snuck in to prove his friends he could sneak into the crazy snake lady's apartment and live.
Well, they would pay later. This was her day off and she intended to relax to the fullest. Wandering into her closet for a bag, she stopped sharply. Some of her belongings had been moved around, but nothing was missing. Again, her mind reminded her that it was her day off. Grabbing a bag, she made her way out her apartment door. It was then she realized she didn't have a clue where her key was. Great, just great: another issue. Grabbing her spare, she locked the door and exited the apartment building.
Oddly, when a few ninja passes –no doubt on their ay to the academy or the Hokage's offices- they didn't greet her. In fact, they treated her just like a civilian. Fingering a lose strand of her hair that had come loose, another thought struck her. Her hair seemed to have grown four, maybe five, inches overnight. This day just kept getting weirder and weirder.
Making her way through the early morning crowd, she entered a small bakery she often visited with Kurenai. The air was rich with the smells of fresh bread, cinnamon, and freshly baking fruits. She left several minutes later with a bag of fresh croissants. Munching on one as she made her way towards the gate, she watched, amused, as villagers darted from shop to shop as a light misting rain increased slowly to steady droplets that pattered on the street and buildings.
She came to rest at the gate. No one was in sight except for Izumo and Kotetsu. Resting her bag on the ground at her feet, she leaned her back against the wall and pulled her fat more firmly on her head. 9:15, she was 15 minutes early.
Crickets chirped, birds trilled, wind whistles, and leaves rustled as Kakashi sat in the middle of a clearing, legs crossed and eyes closed. He breathed deeply, in out in out, showing emotions away. He was a tool of Konoha and tools don't feel, they simply do. They receive instructions and they follow them to the letter. In. Out. In. Out. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
An hour later, his mind was a blank slate, ready to receive the Hokage's instructions and focus on a mission. His feet set out towards the lake, despite his mind's command that he return to the village and prepare his belongings. The rain fell lightly on his cloths and hair as he walked. The animals from earlier had since taken shelter in their warm burrows or wooden homes. The rain poked and prodded at his heart until the emotions wheedled their way back to the front of his mind.
Greyish-blue water slapped gently on the beach just as it had those some odd weeks ago. Years, months; they didn't matter. Only days, hours, minutes, and seconds mattered. Target found, target hit, target disposed of, and the weapon returns. Another target, another mission, another kill. This is where the madness begins. To kill without regret, without feeling, is the way to insanity, the way to losing your own humanity.
With a heavy heart, Kakashi finally returned to the place he'd once found comfort and called his home. Now it was just a place as he was just a man; a shell that once helped protect those he loved, the one who failed to protect them in the end.
Anko's head jerked up. She must have dozed off. Rain still fell around her, only now the sky was darker; it was the calm before the storm. 10:47. Where was everyone? With a sigh, she stretched out the muscles in her back, wincing slightly as the newly formed skin on her back stretched a bit too much. Maybe they got called in last minute for a mission. After all, Izumo and Kotetsu were on gate duty.
Well, she might as well go home if no one was going to show. At least then she could fully relax and restock her now empty kitchen. Wandering down the main street in Konoha, she enjoyed the freedom of the day until she bumped into a stranger. They caught her arm to steady her, preventing her from getting a huge wet spot on the back of her dress.
"Oh sorry." Her hat had fallen forward on her head, blocking her view of his shoulder and head. His feet were clad in simple ninja, close toed sandals and his pants were black as night. His long sleeve shirt covered his arms until it met two gloves marked with the Konoha symbol at his wrists. Except from his knuckles (from what she could see) no skin was showing.
"Hnn." Wait. She knew that voice. Pulling her hat back, she found herself looking up at a familiar masked face. His eyes (well eye) were cold and dull.
"Kakashi, is everything all right?" When she gently placed a hand on his arm, he immediately stiffened. His gaze dropped to her face and his eyes widened in horror. "Kakashi?"
"Stop tormenting me." The woman looked just like Anko, sounded like Anko, smelled like Anko. He'd gone insane.
"Wait, what are you talking about Kakashi?" She attempted to take a step closer, but he lurched away from her.
"Be gone ghosts. Haven't I suffered enough?" Then he was gone, across the rooftops, making a beeline for the Hokage's offices.
Anko stood, blinking, for a moment wondering what was going on. Kakashi looked different. Had someone died? Well, she'd sure picked a bad day to wear civilian cloths, and a dress at that. She couldn't use the rooftops. Quickly, she began weaving her way through shoppers, making through the crowded streets towards the Hokage's office. She had to find out what was wrong.
Kakashi ran across the roof tops as if his life depended on it. His mint was taunting him now. He had to get out. He had to get away. His heartbeat pounded in his ears as he entered the building. Forcing himself to take deep steady breaths, his heart slowly stopped the pounding inferno. Just as Kakashi was rounding the corner to the stairs, a voice called out behind him.
"Kakashi!" To his great relief, it wasn't the ghosts haunting his mind, but Kurenai with Asuma following her. "Where have you been all morning?"
He shrugged. "Around." Nervousness was starting to creep up again. All he wanted was a mission.
"Aren't you early for a mission?" Asuma looked him up and down. "What happened to you? You look like hell,"
"Really crappy day. I need a mission. I need to get out of here. My mind has started playing tricks on me."
"I could swear I saw Anko earlier."
"You're not alone." Kakashi looked at Kurenai, disbelieving. "I spoke with Izumo and Kotesu earlier. Someone with purple hair was at the main gate this morning, as if they were waiting for someone."
"It was probably some traveler." Kakashi didn't want any false hope.
"They didn't see her come in yesterday and she isn't registered as a visiting civilian. She's a ninja, although, I don't understand why they didn't check in. They pass themselves off very easily as a 'normal' civilian."
"Does it matter?" His eye was skeptical. "They haven't done anything."
"They have done anything yet." Asuma put in.
"That's unneeded speculation. Excuse me; I need to speak with Tsunade now." He vanished up the stairs.
"Come on Kurenai, there's no use bugging him." He took her hand in his and led her outside.
"Oh, excuse me." A woman nearly crashed into Kurenai. "I wasn't watching where I was going, I do apologize." She bowed quickly, never glancing at their faces, hers was obscured by the hat she wore, and then moved slowly, but still a brisk walk, down the hallway.
"That was odd."
"I think she was who Izumo saw earlier. But what's she doing here? Maybe it's a transformation jutsu and they're on a mission for Tsunade."
"Come on Kurenai, I'll buy you lunch."
Once out of the sight of Kurenai and Asuma, Kakashi hurried along to Tsunade's office. "Shizune, I need to see the Hokage!"
She eyed him suspiciously. "Aren't you scheduled to see her tomorrow?"
"I'm going crazy. I need a mission, please." He was desperate.
"Well… okay. But if she gets mad it's all on you head."
"Fine, fine." He brushed past her and into Tsunade's office.
The Hokage was sitting behind her desk actually filling out paper work. Hey, even Tsunade can't avoid it forever.
"Kakashi, you're early, very early. Why?" She was in one of her sake withdrawal moods, meaning she was more prone to violence. Kakashi gulped.
"I need a mission. I'm going mad in the village."
"Oh." She put down her pen and folded her hands in her lap. "Define going mad."
"She's everywhere. I thought I smelled her, I thought I saw her." He stared at a bug on the window behind Tsunade, keeping his voice even and calm.
His eyes flicked to her face. "Who else…" Whatever else Kakashi had to say to convince Tsunade he needed a mission, was cut off by a scream.
Anko hurried towards Tsunade's office. She had to find out what was going on with Kakashi and why so much seemed to have changed overnight. In her haste, she nearly moved someone over. "Oh, Excuse me." She hastily bowed her apology. "I wasn't watching where I was going. I apologize." She hurried on, walking a bit slower. Ahead, she heard the door to Tsunade's office close, so she slowed to a normal walk.
Stopping at Shizune's office, she eyes the Hokage's door across the hallway. "Excuse me Shizune; is the Lady Hokage in right now?"
Shizune didn't look up. "She's meeting with one of the jonin right now."
"Is something wrong with Kakashi?"
She snorted. "Where've you been for the past three months."?
"Suna for the chunnin exams."
"Those ended over three months ago."
Anko frowned. Three months ago? What was going on? "Well, what's wrong with Kakashi? He looked like he'd seen a ghost."
"No kidding, he came running to see Tsunade-sama. Apparently he's in desperate need of a mission." She looked up, but couldn't see Anko's face beneath the hat she wore. "Who are you anyways?"
"Why doesn't anyone recognize me? Are these cloths and hat really that different than what I normally wear?" She pulled her hat off and swept her hair out of her eyes.
Shizune took one look at her face and screamed.
Anko leapt back and plastered herself against the wall. 'Stupid. I should have at least brought some kunai. A ninja must be prepared for everything.' Tsunade and Kakashi burst through the open doorway and immediately assumed defensive positions.
"Shizune, report!" Tsunade barked. A shaky finger pointed at Anko.
"Hey! What'd I do?!"
"Anko..." Tsunade's eyes widened and she stood up, but her body was tense, ready to fight if needed.
"Why is everyone looking at me?"
"How'd you get here?"
"I walked. How else would I Tsunade-sama?"
"How'd you get into the village?"
Anko gave her a funny look. "I never left. I woke up this morning same as always, in my apartment. Except today I woke up on the floor for some reason."
"Were you by the gates this morning?"
"Why does it matter? What's wrong with you all?!"
"Anko, just answer the question."
She signed. "I thought today was the day you gave most of the jonins off, but Shizune said the chunnin exams ended over three months ago when I clearly remember being in Suna only a week ago."
Kakashi, who hadn't moved since Shizune had pointed to Anko, slowly stood. "I need some air." Then he was gone, out Shizune's window, no doubt going to the top of the Hokage's faces.
"What day is it?"
"April 17th." It wasn't quite a question, but it wasn't a statement either.
"It's July 23d." Anko sagged a bit against the wall before pulling herself upright and walking to sit on the couch.
"July? What happened?"
"I was hoping you could tell me."
"I woke up this morning and thought it was April. I've got nothing except bruises, scars, and a few cuts I don't remember having." At Tsunade's raised eyebrow, she stood and turned, pulling down the back of her dress to expose the tops of the cuts.
"You don't remember having these?"
"I think I would remember cutting myself on my back. Plus, they're already healing so they didn't just happen yesterday."
"Sorry Hokage-sama. Until Shizune screamed, I didn't know anything was out of the ordinary." She sat back down. "I just thought it was my day off so no one would be looking for me."
"Do you feel any different?"
"Anko, you're calm. You're being polite. You aren't freaking out or yelling."
"Gommen. It's an act. A mask if you will. A mask that's been on so long I forgot how to take it off. When I returned to the village, everyone held it against me that I had foolishly followed Orochimaru. Why be quiet and sad? It would never get me anywhere. They never did respect me, so why should I care what they think of me. I fell into character, hyper, obnoxious, crazy... and it helped. I didn't care what they thought of me anymore. I'm me, that's all I'll ever be."
She looked at the ceiling. "I spent years being someone I wasn't to hide from the pain. It went on too long, I couldn't be me again." She laughed. "I became the crazy snake lady of Konoha. I don't know why, but when I woke up today, I was... me."
Kakashi listened quietly in the corner. He'd returned, feeling a bit calmer after the whole situation arose. He felt light than he had in awhile, like the burden of her kidnapping had been lifted from his shoulders.
"Gommen Tsunade-sama. I wish I could be more useful, but it's just... nothing. When I left Orochimaru, I knew it was missing... I knew I'd lost if, but now it's like it never happened."
"Orochimaru removed your memories once. It's logical to assume he perfected his technique. Do you mind if I examine you?"
Tsunade placed her hands on either side of Anko's face and closed her eyes in concentration. Chakara gathered to her hands and she focused on Anko's mind.
Twenty minutes later, the chakara glow dimmed, then vanished. Tsunade let out a sigh and rubbed her temple. "Nothing. Your mind is a blank slate Anko."
"I didn't expect much. Tsunade, what's been happening in the village?"
Kakashi couldn't bare it. He left silently out the door and wandered the village in search of answers that would never come.
Later, Anko was finally released from questioning, not that she could answer many of them to begin with, and with a weary mind, she headed home. "Anko!" Kurenai grabbed her up in a hug.
"Hey Kurenai. How've you been?"
"How have I been? How have you been?! I mean, you were the one missing."
"I can't remember so I really can't know. Gommen, but I've had a long and confusing day. Lunch tomorrow?"
"Sure." She watched as Anko slowly walked towards her apartment. Her keen, red eyes saw a scarcely visible figure standing on the roof, watching Anko. She joined him.
"Kakashi." He nodded in greeting. "You could follow her you know. She may have disappeared for three months, but you're still her best friend. She needs you to help her through this."
"Look at her Kurenai. Does she look like she needs help? This is the second time it's happened to her."
"Only this time, you can help her…"
"Kurenai!" He cut her off. "Does she look like she needs help? She's doing fine without me. She's happy, she's safe, and she's home. What else is there?"
He looked at her with a serious black eye. "A word of advice Kurenai, You can't fix what isn't broken. If you try, you just might break it beyond repair." And he was gone. He still had a mission to receive. He was a ninja of Konoha and would see it shine in the glory of its king.
A/N: T.T yeah… kinda a pathetic ending but I'm against rainbows and sunshine and weddings and parties and stuff at the end of a story about NINJA. I mean there are times where it's ok, but this is not one of them. So if you're unhappy… deal with it! My story, my ending.
Mkz so I've been getting really stressed with school so I've decided to start a crazy project. I'm taking a whole bunch of Disney movies and goofing them up with Kakashi and Anko. Why? Because it makes me laugh while writing them and it's fun. Right now I'm working on Beauty and the Beast. Watch for it please =)
Anywhos… it's been fun writing this, even with some writers block thrown in. Til next time –DHUnleashed.