"How much farther?" Sasori grumbled, readjusting the supplies they brought to the mountains.
"Mum says she lives by the secret spring." Atari replied.
"Secret spring?" Hidan stopped to turn to his guide.
"Yeah... I've only been there once while gathering herbs for mum." Atari explained, "I'm the second person to come back alive though, after my mom."
"I take it that's unusual." Sasori grumbled.
"Highly." Atari smirked, taking the lead once more.
The trio continued on, going through thick underbrush and dense forest until Atari spied a stream. He pointed it out and then began to follow it upstream. Hidan raced ahead a few times, eager to finish the mission and get back to his family. Sasori just wanted to go home and sleep the day away—until his twins try to blow him or something else up. As the sun started to sink, Atari's pace slowed. The forest became far less comforting in the dark and so the group traveled closer to one another.
"The spring isn't too far now..." The dirty blond whispered, eyes trained on the widening stream.
"About fucking time." Hidan growled.
Sasori agreed. They arrived at an overgrown clearing by the time the moon was high in the sky, illuminating the spring in the center of the field. Flowers decorated the terrain, painting it red and white. Once they reached the edge of the water, Atari announced that they would camp out. They pulled out their gear and set up, eating some dried meat from Atari's family store. The blond waited for the former Akatsuki members to sleep before getting up, pulling off his shirt and pants. He dove gracefully into the spring, swimming all the way to the bottom.
Once there, he moved some of the rocks around, searching. He felt something metallic and tugged as hard as he could. A trap door opened and he smirked, swimming inside the tunnel. Above water's surface, Hidan was tossing and turning, thoughts of his last night with Kakuzu. Before he could get far into the dream, it turned into a bloody nightmare. He sat up abruptly, startling Sasori awake. The redhead was sleeping practically on top of him. They exchanged a glare and then looked around, realizing they were a man short.
"Where the hell did Atari go?" Sasori huffed.
"Probably taking a piss somewhere." Hidan shrugged.
"But aren't those his clothes by that rock?" The puppet master pointed to black pants and a green shirt that had been on Atari.
"He couldn't be in the spring, could he...?" Hidan blinked, staring into the water.
"I don't see him." Sasori replied.
"See who?" An elderly man's voice spoke up from behind.
"Who the hell are you?"
"I am the man who protects this spring. You're trespassing."
"Look man, we're looking for a woman that can heal any injury." Hidan drawled.
"My mother died years ago, kid." The man cackled, starting to cough.
"Y-You're Nikuya?" Sasori spluttered.
"Yes I am." The man grinned, revealing gums and nothing but. "Now then, what are you still doing here?"
"Now we're waiting for our friend to get back so I can kick his ass." Hidan grumbled moodily, disappointed to find that their mission had led them no where.
"There are three of you then?" Nikuya looked around.
"Hidan!" Atari's voice sounded from the center of the spring. "Sasori!"
"Atari, that bitch we're looking for is dead." The Jashinist snapped.
"I know." He replied.
"Hey there son." The old man waved.
"My dad is the next best thing..."
Once Atari pulled himself from the spring water, he explained everything to his friends. About how his grandmother raised a murderer in the woods and his mother was a victim that was healed. Ten years after he was born, he was reunited with his father and almost killed. Once the old woman informed him that it was his son, Nikuya pulled a complete 180, devoting his life to becoming a medicine man.
"Where were you?" Hidan finally managed to ask. "In the spring?"
"I was in an old tunnel where our best herbs grow." Atari held up a wet bag. "These should be enough..."
"I think so." Nikuya nodded, "I got the other necessary herbs in my bag. Ready to leave when you are, I suppose. Nothing else left here for me." He sighed.
"Well mum's still living in the village..." Atari murmured. "But you're right, you have to come with us."
"Are you dead yet?"
"Are you dead yet?"
"Are you dead yet?"
"NO! Leave me the fuck alone, Aoi!" Kakuzu snapped.
"I'm Akane!" The strawberry blonde pouted.
"Deidara!" Kakuzu shouted. "Your daughter is pissing me off."
"Sorry..." The artist sighed, entering the room to remove his daughter from Kakuzu's chest. "Danna usually helps and Suki's busy trying to entertain the other twins and Ha-chan."
"Could you just lock me in here? The key is on the dresser." Green eyes pointed out the silver key hanging on an ornament of the dresser.
"Sure..." He replied, grabbing the key before leaving with his daughter.
Downstairs, Suki was nodding off, holding Moku and Shikari on his lap. Hametsuki sat between his legs on the floor, facing Aoi as she read a book out loud. Shikari seemed well entertained and Deidara smiled, letting Akane join her twin. When the door opened half an hour later, everyone was wide awake and on their feet. However it was only Phox.
"Are the others back yet?" She inquired.
"Not yet..." Suki murmured.
"Well, I'm going to take a look at Kakuzu. If we wait any longer, all hope could be lost." She headed upstairs without waiting for a response.
"You lock the door?" Suki turned to Deidara whom nodded. "Good. Atari said they'd all be back by tonight."
"Let's hope so..." He sighed, turning off the stove.
Later that night, Hidan and the others did indeed arrive. Phox answered the door, frowning deeply. Sasori brushed past her, looking around for his family. He disappeared inside his bedroom and Atari stepped inside with Hidan and his father. Phox eyed the man warily.
"This is my father. He's an excellent medicine man." Atari said, voice like silk.
"We'll see about that... I'll be back in five months... Itachi should be here sooner if all goes well." Phox replied before leaving.
"Okay then. Who's the patient?" Nikuya clapped his hands.
"He's upstairs." Hidan then led them upstairs.
God. I bet the suspense is killing you guys. I'm aiming to end this on the 40th chapter. Sorry for the delay. This chapter was finished quite some time ago. I didn't realize it was ready though until I got off my writer's block and returned to my unfinished fics on here. Sorry.