An odd silence had settled over the laboratory, one more threatening than peaceful. It brought upon the three figures in its midst a creeping doom; it threatened to break out at any second and wreak death upon any one of them. Orochimaru stood to the side, his mouth spread in a triumphant smirk; Anko stood a few feet ahead of him, eyes boring down upon the figure below her, kunai in hand; Iruka was on his knees, eyes wide as he waited for the blow that would end his life.

Anko was confident in her pose, stance unwavering and weapon pointed threateningly at Iruka. The victim himself felt calmer than he should, being faced with the death he was sure to meet. His eyes showed acceptance whilst betraying his despair at the loss of his one true love, but his figure never quivered in fear, and he managed to hold strong.

"Are you sure... Anko?" Iruka whispered, averting his gaze from the kunoichi for a brief span of seconds. She didn't take more than the length of his question to reply. She spoke shortly and sharply, cutting across his kindling hope of a change of heart.

"Yes." With her answer, Iruka dipped his head in acknowledgement. So be it. At least he would die knowing he had tried his best to get her back. He cast a dark glare at Orochimaru, earning an amused chuckle in return, and then faced back towards Anko. He realised now that he'd been played all along. He would never have found Orochimaru's base on his own – the twisted snake had meant for it to happen so they would end up in this exact situation. Orochimaru wanted to see him hurt, betrayed, and dead.

He studied Anko's features more closely than before, too. He saw the slits in her irises, the purple tips to her eyes, and the paleness to her skin. It sickened him to the core, for it marred her beauty as he had seen it before all of this had occurred. And for how much he loathed Orochimaru, to see Anko developing his main traits in appearance made him want to scream. Why should she look like that devil!? He rocked forward slightly, overcome by emotion.

Orochimaru had warped and twisted her, dragging Anko into the hell he ruled over. She had been a ray of sunshine to his day in Konoha: that single, funny woman who could crack a joke at anything and cheer even the glummest of people up. But Orochimaru had torn that away from Anko. All Iruka saw now was a shell of her former self, filled to the brink with hatred, anger, and a cruel pleasure in inflicting pain on other people. He hardly recognised her in terms of personality.

Looking deeper, although it pained him, he really understood how much she'd changed. She wasn't happy, light-hearted and kind anymore. No... She was dark, twisted... and evil. Just like Orochimaru. Just... like... Orochimaru. "You've ruined her," he growled to the Sannin. "Everything that made her a great person... you ruined it."

Orochimaru eyed Iruka with disdain before shaking his head. "You are mistaken, my dear Iruka," he chided, "I have simply brought out the best in her. Brought out that which I find... pleasing." His words were meant to sting.

"More like twisted her to your liking," Iruka spat back. He cast one final glance at Orochimaru before turning himself fully on Anko. "JUST DO IT." He could stand no more dawdling.

And so she did. Iruka's eyes widened as Anko's kunai sliced horizontally across his chest, easily cutting through his clothes and digging its sharp edge into his skin. It was like a line of fire that increased in intensity with each second. His heartbeat pounded in his ears, his body shook violently with small spasms, and blood poured from his chest. He became disorientated and blanched almost immediately, eyes flicking upwards to watch as Anko raised the blood-stained kunai for a final time.

The world moved in slow motion as she swung the weapon around in an arc towards his neck, aiming for the kill this time. Iruka had accepted her decision, but had doubted that she would put it into play. For all the cruelty he could feel emanating from her tortured soul, he hadn't thought this would happen. He thought she still had a bit of humanity in her to spare his life. But he was wrong. She had lost her humanity as she had now lost him. She had lost herself.


A second before the cold steel of death hit Iruka, Anko swiftly adjusted her body and flicked her wrist upwards, pulling the kunai out of its trail and up to deflect an oncoming projectile. A second kunai bounced off its shining edge and clattered to the ground, where Anko spared it a quick look before letting her eyes welcome their new guests. It seemed Tsunade's squad had finally managed to catch them.

"What a pleasant surprise," drawled Orochimaru, narrowed eyes fixated on the band of people who had so quickly slipped past his traps and reached him here. Although, he did notice the absence of one member – the Inuzuka – who his spies had said was in Tsunade's party before. The Hyuuga was standing at the front of the party now – obviously having used his Byakugan to deflect projectiles sent their way from traps. Tsunade then made her way forwards, her expression that of anger.

"Your tricks and traps killed our team mate!" she growled, eyes staring intensely at Orochimaru. Then she heard a desperate gasp from the Hyuuga beside her, and let go of her rising fury for that second to take in what had and was happening. The Hyuuga's point of interest was Iruka, who had crumpled weakly to the floor, clutching at his chest. Blood pooled around him, and a few seconds later he passed out. Tsunade's first instinct was to reach down and heal him before he could die, but a rush of wind caused her hand to flinch backwards as Anko swung the kunai forward. It missed by an inch.

Tsunade diverted her attention to Anko for the first time. She scowled, a look of intense disapproval and anger flashing across her expression. Anko stared back with mutual anger; however she could see Tsunade's concern for Iruka growing with each second. Tsunade managed to note the changes in Anko easily and quickly, and wondered what had made it come about. However right now she needed to set in motion a plan she'd been formulating.

"Itachi!" Tsunade snapped, and the teen appeared from behind the door. "Take on Orochimaru whilst I heal Iruka, and Murasaki: you handle Anko. Don't die." She barely had to finish her sentence before her two team mates sprung into action. Orochimaru was obviously going to fare worse. He had planned to try out his new technique on the Uchiha, but he needed Tsunade and the Hyuuga out of the way before he could even attempt such a feat. He had confidence that Anko could kill the Hyuuga easily enough, but as soon as Tsunade got involved things would get complicated. Plus, he was angry that Iruka might not die after all.

He would have to fight the Uchiha properly until he could get a hit in on Tsunade, but the more he thought about it the bleaker his plan seemed to get. It would be impossible to fight in such a small room without getting hurt. Even with his skill, Anko had a high chance of dying. It didn't matter as much as his own life, but he'd prefer it if she came away alive. He realised that they would have to escape. He was loathe to admit, but this was beyond him, and he vowed to himself to destroy them another day.

Opening his mouth to issue his orders, Orochimaru had to bite back the words as Itachi lunged at him. He retaliated swiftly, hands moving in a blur as snakes shot out from the sleeves of his clothing, shooting towards the Uchiha. Itachi didn't even bat an eyelid as he disposed of them, fighting back with his own hand seals; a fireball two times bigger than his own head flew at Orochimaru with speed.

Meanwhile Anko was locked in combat, fending off the Hyuuga's deadly strikes whilst trying to deal back her own. She dodged where she could, taking hits when she could not, and had begun to weave a dance around the laboratory. She could feel the stench of death affecting her opponent, although his skill outmatched his unease, but she was already creating a plan.

For Murasaki, the few moves that would have come in handy were rendered useless in the small room, where he could just as easily strike a friend as well as a foe. Thus he stuck to hand-to-hand combat, struggling to subdue his enemy as Anko wriggled out of his reach every time he nearly had her. He was lead forwards and back as they stepped around the operating table, both of them fighting for dominance, or so it seemed.

Anko's face didn't give away her tactics. She neither smiled nor allowed herself a moment of satisfaction as the Hyuuga moved to her wishes. He was aware of the puddles of blood around the room, but when Anko's attacks increased in fury he had to keep his eyes away from the ground in order to not get stabbed in the face. He'd managed to cut off a fair few of her chakra pathways and disable her use of chakra, but she seemed bent on using her kunai to kill him instead of Jutsu – ultimately, that made his technique quite useless, so he focused on simply delivering blows to kill her instead.

A numbing tingle spread through the areas the Hyuuga had struck, however Anko paid them no heed. She didn't register the pain that rippled through her system when her enemy managed to catch her, nor the blood that flowed out of the cuts she'd acquired. Her whole mindset was charged with bloodlust, and a dark anger fuelled her stabs and punches as she grappled with her foe. After a minute of fighting, Murasaki finally seemed to gain the upper hand, striking successfully multiple times in quick succession.

He managed to break the wrist Anko used to swing her kunai, where upon she tossed it into her other hand – she was less capable with her left hand, but it was better than nothing – and also delivered a nasty punch to her jaw, causing Anko to become disorientated for a moment before regaining her senses in time to avoid another swing to her head. Her heightened senses helped her, and she relied heavily on them at times during the fight, whilst at other times she did not. However with a few hits in now, Murasaki grew overconfident.

He began to make mistakes, where he would misjudge distances or the speed of Anko's movements. Twice she struck his left shoulder, dislocating it, and he howled with pain at the strike. He began to grow more careful again, but it was already too late. Anko had led him to the exact spot she needed, where the ground was slick with blood and balance was hard to obtain. The kunoichi darted over the crimson puddles into spots that her feet would hold on. Murasaki, eyes set on Anko, didn't realise what he'd slipped on until he was falling.

It was a simple matter for the Hyuuga to quickly manoeuvre his body and get back up, or use Eight Trigrams Palms Revolving Heaven to shove Anko away, but Anko didn't spare him that leisure, nor could he use his Jutsu without hurting Tsunade or Itachi. The last thing Murasaki saw was the deep, burning hatred in the female's eyes before she cut down his life, the sharp steel of her weapon sinking itself into his chest and puncturing his heart. Looking into Anko's eyes as his own life slipped away, he didn't just see her anger, but felt it, and understood why. Her eyes betrayed how complicated a person she was, but he felt like he understood her in the brief second before he passed away.

His body hit the ground with a thud, droplets of blood splashing upwards upon impact. The Hyuuga's own blood joined the puddle as it spread outwards a few inches more. Anko left the dead body immediately, sparing no time to look at the bothersome Konoha shinobi. She broke into a run towards Tsunade, who was labouring over Iruka's unconscious body, healing the wound across his chest with glowing palms. Anko winced slightly as her broken wrist bounced with her stride, but focused on attacking.

She couldn't use Jutsu thanks to Murasaki, and her right wrist was crippled, so all she could hope for was to distract the Sannin. That way Orochimaru might get a hit in. Across the room she noticed the man himself manage to land a devastating blow on the Uchiha, only for his form to be replaced by one of the chairs set up against the side of the room. Their battle resumed.

Tsunade looked up as Anko charged at her, and her former scowl returned. She'd healed Iruka now, the skin across his chest as smooth as it had been before, although still patched with blood. She rose up, meeting Anko head-on as the purple-haired girl threw her kunai at her. Tsunade cocked her head to the side and folded the fingers on her right hand down, save for her index and middle finger. As the kunai whizzed at her, she shifted her feet and jabbed upwards with perfect timing and precision. Her fingers knocked the steel and pulled it off balance, and then with another swift movement she hooked her index finger through the ring at the beginning of the weapon and spun it back around, re-directing its course back at its owner.

Anko threw herself to the side, stunned by Tsunade's movements. She'd executed the move perfectly, and now Anko was the one dodging her own attack. The kunai flew past and embedded itself in a wall on the opposite side of the lab. The power and speed with which Tsunade had returned her weapon was unnatural, and Anko started to grasp just what she was dealing with. She was a reckless fool, but that she had to be lest she disappointed Orochimaru – what would he think if she just stood by the sidelines, afraid only because her foes were stronger than she.

Landing on her broken wrist, Anko gave a yelp of pain. Her wrist and arm burned with each small movement she made. Anko rolled back up to her feet though, trying to ignore it. If she succumbed to pain then she would never win. She launched herself back into the fight.


Tsunade didn't understand Anko's motives. It was clear that she was angry at Konoha for the way she'd been mistreated, and that she still held her affection for Orochimaru even after all those years apart, however she looked like she'd progressed past those things. She still held that anger and affection, but there were other things keeping her bound to the snake now. She sensed the longing to be close to him, and the determination in her eyes to impress.

Biting her lip slightly, Tsunade tried to figure the girl out. She could see the way she felt comfortable in the bloodied lab, because her posture was more relaxed than stiff with a tense nervousness. In that respect she guessed she'd spent a good amount of time in this room, and had grown accustomed to it and the gruesome events Orochimaru held inside. She drew from this fact that Anko would have some ideas and knowledge of what Orochimaru was up to – also, because Orochimaru was letting her run around his lab, this meant there must be some level of trust between them. That, or Orochimaru believed she wouldn't try and run away, or couldn't.

Thoughts ran through her head in seconds, theories and ideas that appeared fleetingly before disappearing in a flash. She was analysing Anko, adding to her thoughts now that Anko hadn't had a problem in killing Murasaki, something Tsunade felt slight grief over. With two of her team mates dead, she felt as if she'd somewhat failed. She now resolved to keep Iruka and Itachi alive no matter what. Anko wasn't who she had been - despite receiving a lot of negativity from Konoha, she had dealt with it, and she had had friends who cared a lot for her. Now she was mercilessly killing ninjas from the village she had lived in not more than a month ago.

Drawing her thoughts to a conclusion as Anko leaped back at her again, Tsunade decided there were only two courses of action she could take. She needed information, and she was determined to draw it out from Anko. She could either capture her and take her back to Konoha, or manage to lead her outside the room and force the information out of her there. Itachi was skilled enough to keep Orochimaru busy, but not for long. She had to be quick.

Tsunade watched Anko swing her right leg around in an attempt to kick her in the jaw. She was miles stronger than Anko - for all she wanted to fight, Anko would never best her. Bringing her hands around, she clapped them shut on the kunoichi's ankle, stopping it a few inches from her face. Tsunade then twisted her leg so Anko lost her balance and fell to the floor with a thud. Keeping her leg up high, Tsunade made sure Anko couldn't lash out and hit her.

"Itachi! Keep him from escaping for a few minutes more!" Tsunade commanded, before tightening her grip on Anko and escaping the room with her in tow. She kicked the door shut on the way out, leaving Itachi and Orochimaru to their fighting; just before she'd left Orochimaru called out to her.

"She won't break to you, Tsunade. I've already broken her. She'll never go back." And then the door swung shut. Sharp frown lines appeared on Tsunade's face as she thought about his words, but she didn't waste time and quickly moved to drag Anko up to her feet. Pushing her against the wall, she stared into the girl's dark, angry eyes, and began to speak.

"What are you doing," she said in a low voice, a threatening tone lacing each word together. "You've changed. What happened." It wasn't a question, but a demand for an answer. A growl rumbled from Anko's throat before she replied.

"Nothing," she said roughly, staring into Tsunade's eyes, unwavering. "He," - Tsunade knew who she was talking about – "is the only person who has ever accepted me, and I will do whatever he wants. I am his." She raised her head a little higher at that statement, as if proud of it. Tsunade was disgusted.

"No, you are not an object to be taken possession of. You are a human being just like me or anyone else here, or in Konoha. You have a free will to do what you want!" she exclaimed, eyes narrowing in distaste to Anko's choice of words.

"I have never been treated as anyone's equal. But if I'm to go with anyone, I'd want to be with someone who loves me. You don't understand! You haven't lived my life and gone through the things I have!" Anko spat, her emotions flaring. "No one has ever had someone mean so much to them as Orochimaru means to me."

"You would give up your dreams for him!?" Tsunade retorted. "Do you honestly think he loves you? He's using you, just like he did before. He sees potential in his peers and he goes out of his way to manipulate them, until they've bent to his will and follow him like slaves. Just wait until you're surrounded by more of his little minions, and then see how much attention he pays you. You mean nothing to him, but you mean something to me, and the rest of Konoha. Don't let yourself be represented by him!"

Tsunade brought up a finger, and Anko felt the touch of fear in her heart. With her strength, Tsunade could crush her easily, even with just that one finger. Instead of pain though, she felt her touch the skin around her eyes; she rested her finger on the purple markings, an inquisitive glint to her eyes. "How did this happen?"

Anko flinched with the contact on her skin, and Tsunade drew back. Then she looked away from her, speaking her next words with scorn. "I wouldn't tell you even if I was dying." Her eyes widened though as Tsunade punched the wall directly beside her head, anger in her eyes. A deep crack spread from beneath her knuckles, running a few centimetres up the wall.

"Dammit, Anko, stop it! Do you take pleasure in looking like that monster? What has he done to you!?" Tsunade yelled, desperate to know. She wanted to know how one man could ensnare someone so easily, and drag and twist them into something so far away from who'd they'd originally been that it was impossible to tell who they were anymore. A voice that wasn't Anko's replied.

"I have only given her what she wants," came the cruel hiss of Orochimaru, his lean figure moving out from the doorway of his lab. Tsunade whipped her head around to look at him, eyes wide.

"What did you do to Itachi?" she whispered, afraid of the answer.

"Oh, I only knocked him out. He stood no chance when I started fighting properly, but I have further plans for him in the future, so I left him his life, at least." Orochimaru spoke casually, golden irises trailing from Tsunade to Anko. Tsunade seemed relieved at the revelation, glad to know not everyone she had brought with her was dead. Anko leaned slightly against Tsunade's grip, testing to see if it would be possible to try and get away; her hold was as strong as stone. "Now, what were you saying?"

Tsunade's moment of relief quickly vanished, her muscles tensing as she replied to Orochimaru. "Anko," she said through gritted teeth. Orochimaru smirked at her, crossing his arms.

"She lost her freedom the moment she took my hand," he said. "You can ask her again and again and she will never return to Konoha. She will never leave my side." He let his words sink in, and Tsunade turned her head back to Anko.


"You know why." Tsunade could feel her pain, her hatred, her anger. She could sense the radiating bloodlust and the want to inflict pain on anything she could. She had drawn into herself, yet let Orochimaru in. He'd knocked down her defences and taken over her mind – he had broken her down until she could take it no more, and submitted to him. She could see it all now. He'd destroyed her soul and fixed it to his liking, and Anko didn't know any better. For all the hardships she'd faced, the simple touch of her old sensei could crack her, and it was that that led her so easily into his grip.

"You won't change your mind," Tsunade stated, and Anko shook her head.

"He's like a poison that spreads through your body. It sets you on fire, and threatens to destroy you, but submission is the antidote that can make the difference between life and death." She dropped her voice to a whisper. "He gives me a reason to live, and I would gladly die for him a thousand times over. He gives me purpose, and for that I will gladly work for him for the rest of my life. I told you..." Her voice rose again. "Konoha will never have a hold over me again – I belong only to Orochimaru." She finished there, and Tsunade shook her head. Her speech was bold, but foolish. She was tainted with Orochimaru's evil, which was plain to see. However with her decisions, Tsunade had to follow her calls of duty.

"I told you that if you went with Orochimaru, people would hunt you down for the rest of your life. I wasn't lying, Anko. You've been twisted in ways I never thought possible, and I can't ignore that, so as a Sannin I will end you and Orochimaru's lives, right now!" Tsunade let go of Anko to draw back her fist, gathering chakra down her arm to strengthen the impact. A strong punch to the neck would crush her throat and stop her from breathing – she would die instantly. However, before she could strike Orochimaru's tongue shot out from his mouth, whipping around and catching Tsunade's arm. It provided the distraction Anko needed to slip out from Tsunade's immediate area of contact and avoid being killed.

Tsunade jerked her arm backwards, the power pulling Orochimaru towards her with speed. She used her other fist to punch him square in the face, but instead of a satisfying crunch she felt the body melt into mud – he had used a clone. She grimaced, irritated with his stupid tricks. He was a coward for not fighting her directly. She caught sight of Anko slipping away down the hall, but was more concerned with where Orochimaru was.

When she couldn't find him, she concluded that her best course of action would be to get Itachi and Iruka and leave as fast as possible. Dread filled her when she realised that in her haste, she had left Iruka in the room with Itachi and Orochimaru. She had a nasty feeling that he would be... She shoved her thoughts away from the image, swiftly entering the lab once more and looking around. Itachi was slumped against a wall, a few scratches running along his arms and blood streaming out from a wound at the back of his head – probably where he had hit the wall. Iruka was nowhere to be seen.

Tsunade was aware that she could do no more for Iruka now. If he was with Orochimaru and Anko, then he was either dead already or in a situation that she wouldn't be able to save him from – if Orochimaru did actually intend to kill him. Her hands tightened into fists, frustration causing her to shake. Everything had gone so horribly wrong. If she hadn't stopped to talk to Anko, and just killed her, then she could have aided Itachi and overcome Orochimaru. Instead she had taken too long, and now Iruka could be dead because of it.

Squatting down next to Itachi, she made quick work of his injuries and healed them. Then she picked him up as effortlessly as a mother might her child, and left the lab for the final time, she hoped. With Itachi unconscious she knew it would be unwise to seek out Orochimaru, so resigned to the fact that she would have to return to Konoha with her findings, her mission a failure. Midori, the Inuzuka, had rushed recklessly into Orochimaru's base and been struck down by his traps. Murasaki had been slain by Anko.

Tsunade grunted as she hefted Itachi along the halls of the base, thinking about Orochimaru and Anko as she walked. It seemed the serpent had finally found himself a trustworthy snake.


Anko and Orochimaru had escaped the base quickly, for explosives had been set to detonate a mere five minutes after their departure. Anko had managed to persuade the Sannin that bringing Iruka with them to the next base would prove to be more fun than letting him escape, however she kept her real motivations to herself. She had found the talisman Iruka had given her for her birthday in his pocket, as well as the photo of her and Orochimaru. She realised he'd been in her apartment after she'd left. She took the items from him; she had no belongings of her own since going with Orochimaru, so it would be nice to own at least these things.

Orochimaru had tasked her with carrying the boy, which she took on with no complaints. Well, that was until she realised she couldn't actually carry him due to her broken wrist. Orochimaru regarded it with bored eyes before using his own talent with healing to fix it quickly. Then Anko picked Iruka back up and they went on their way. It did lead to a slower pace than she fancied, however she made no comment about it and continued to try and keep up with Orochimaru.

After five minutes of running, both from the explosives and from Tsunade – should she have given chase –, they finally stopped and slowed down after they heard the resounding boom as the base went up in flames. The trees rustled as the force of the explosion spread out to where they walked, but it soon settled. Nothing would remain of the base once everything died down, and no one would find any remaining evidence of Orochimaru's plans.

With that done they were finally on their way to Orochimaru's main base. When Anko asked why their load was light, and they weren't carrying the heap of equipment and experiment results Orochimaru was sure to have wanted with them, he told her how he'd had people transport it over for him earlier that day. She wondered aloud how he would know if anyone stole anything of his, or looked at anything secret. He said he had his ways.

The trip was long and they took many routes to avoid small towns and villages, but it was scenic, and Anko had to admire the view. She didn't care for many things anymore, but as they walked through different landscapes she let her eyes wander, a light smile touching her lips. Dry blood cracked on her skin as she did so.

They were traversing across a set of cliffs that had been once mined out, but had since been forgotten. Caves were set deep into craggy rock faces, filled with glittering gems that shone a spectrum of colours. Some were blood red, others a grass green. The bones of an ancient animal could be seen half-mined out of the ground a few yards to Anko's left. It was unlike anything she'd ever seen before.

A towering waterfall crashed down halfway through the cliff, its thunderous howl echoing across the sky. Its waters were a diamond blue, and they ran right across the path Anko and Orochimaru walked on. A few water soaked stepping stones provided the way across, but the slippery surface caused problems for Anko, mainly due to Iruka being on her back. Nevertheless, after much difficulty she joined her sensei on the other side.

All along the cliff they encountered jewels and hoards of treasure, as well as fossils and bones that dated back thousands of years. With the curiosity of a child Anko had asked Orochimaru what they were of and where they had come from – her constant question-asking was almost reminiscent of when Orochimaru had been her sensei all those years ago; it was funny how they'd lapsed back into old habits so quickly.

Steps and slopes soon led them off of the cliffs and away from the mines, and the beautiful wonders that rested within it. Orochimaru had explained how the native animals had driven the humans out from the cliffs, for they were large and vicious. Some of the bones Anko had spotted had been of those exact animals – they'd since become extinct in that area, so they had nothing to worry about whilst passing through now. The pair of them travelled from the cliffs to a large, grassy plain, where the grass rippled with the wind and the sun shone freely without trees blocking its rays. The day stretched on for what seemed like forever, but Anko knew they were making progress. Whenever Iruka seemed likely to stir Orochimaru would give him a hard enough hit on the head to knock him out again.

When night began to intrude on the day, the skies melted into hues of orange and pink, and the land glowed yellow. With each minute the blue that remained began to darken into a navy, and Anko began to wonder where they would stay for the night. When at last the remaining colour had drained out of the sky, Anko saw a few lights in the distance. They belonged to a rundown old town where crooks and scoundrels scoured the streets, and decency and manners were lacking. It was unappealing, Anko thought as they approached, but Orochimaru had explained that it was the only place they could stay, lest they sleep on the ground. He also had to speak to someone in the town.

Larger louts were spread throughout the town, some happy and singing merrily into the awakening night, and others angry, emotions ravaged by booze, and were brawling mercilessly. Anko spotted several pubs dotted about, and two or so hotels. They both seemed like they would be filthy inside, and the outside lights were broken too – instead of the titles of the hotels flaring brightly, letters were missing and were hanging loosely from their sockets.

They went for the one that looked nicer, although only by a small margin, called The Silver Ratchet Hotel. It consisted of four floors: there was a pub on the bottom floor, rooms for staying in on the second floor, more rooms on the third, and the top floor was where the owners stayed. The pub was jam-packed with tough men and their whores, and Anko kept her distaste for the scene to herself when she and Orochimaru walked through the doors.

A few people looked up as they entered, eyebrows knitting together as they tried to take in what they were seeing, their eyes widening as they understood. Others began to look up as their peers turned in shock to the entrants, and soon everything had gone silent, all eyes on Anko and Orochimaru. Anko had forgotten just how bad they looked.

No one moved for a minute. The bartender looked over the shoulders of his customers and gaped at the image of the man and woman at the entrance. He instantly recognized the male – who couldn't have heard of Orochimaru? He was a legendary Sannin, deadly and cruel. He was feared around these parts. Orochimaru had already set an example of a few members in this town a few months ago. The woman, however, he didn't know.

She looked exactly like Orochimaru, but more gruesome due to the dried blood that coated her body. Her eyes had a savage cruelty in them, as did Orochimaru's, although his were more subtle about it. The woman looked less in control of herself than her travelling companion. There was an aura of insecurity about her, and the bartender was afraid to find out where the blood on her body had come from – the lab coat she wore was a good indication. The darkness of the outside world made their illuminated forms stand out more clearly, and it was frightening. The extra man was hard to figure out, for they couldn't tell if he was dead or just unconscious.

"Orochimaru!" boomed a voice from the crowd of people. A man had stood up from his chair and was beckoning towards himself. He was short and pudgy, yet held a proud demeanour. A thick black moustache rested atop his lips. His waistcoat lay over a long-sleeved shirt, and he wore pinstriped trousers held up by a brown leather belt. Orochimaru made his way over to the man whilst Anko followed, picking her way through the crowd of people who still stared in silence.

Once they'd reached the male, Orochimaru took Iruka from Anko and said in a strict tone, "you're not to follow us upstairs until I come back and get you. Until then, make yourself at home." Then he turned away from her and began to climb up the stairs to a higher floor of the hotel, following the man he had arranged to meet up with. Each step groaned under the weight of the two humans, threatening to give way. Anko watched them disappear before she spun around to meet the stares of the pub's occupants.

"What are you all looking at," she growled, and watched as slowly but surely people began to return to their own business. Within minutes she was witnessing all sorts of activity: men being seduced by women who were scarcely dressed, men bantering with one another, others buying pints of sake and downing them in one go. She decided to indulge herself in a drink or two; her mouth was dry and her throat parched. On their long trek she'd cleansed her mouth of blood, although the taste still lingered. She wanted to wash that away now, so without further ado she dropped Iruka's unconscious body on the nearest couch and walked up to the bartender who was serving out drinks to other customers.

"I'll have a glass of Saké," she said roughly, eyes drifting from the apprehensive bartender to those who sat around her. They seemed to move away, unsettled by her appearance. She understood why, for who wouldn't be disconcerted by a girl splashed with blood, whose face resembled that of a deadly man they feared? She looked back at the counter as the glass of rice wine was passed to her, picking it up and taking a sip. It was warm, and ran smoothly down her throat. The wave of relief was imminent, her whole body shivering with joy at the drink. She realised just how starved she'd been of food and water – the hectic events of the past few days, doubled with the adrenaline she'd been on lately, had distracted her from basic daily needs. She quickly tipped back the glass and downed the rest of the drink, putting it down after. "Another," she demanded.

She drank four glasses of saké after that, stopping when she realised that she was drunk. It was a strong drink with a strong bite to it after being consumed, but Anko had relished every feeling. Now she was finding it hard to keep her focus on things, so when the bartender asked for his money, she could only blink twice. What money? "I... don't..." She couldn't finish her sentence, forgetting what she was trying to say. The bartender grew angry.

"Hey, listen lady. You better pay up or else. I gotta get by on something, an' if you don't pay then I can't afford for myself. Now, pay," he snarled, his threats brushing by Anko who still was having difficulties in understanding what was happening. She leant back in her chair as a voice rang out beside her.

"I'll pay for her," a man said, drawing out the money needed and handing it over. The bartender snatched it from his hand and stalked back to his till, refusing to go near Anko again. Anko turned slowly to face the man – she couldn't quite see what he looked like due to the haziness in her eyes caused by the saké, but she had the impression of a hulking figure with strong muscles. She didn't know how to react to his kindness, so just slurred out a thank you instead. "It's alright," he grunted, before grinning. There was something off with it though, something hinting darker intentions. "I find tough girls attractive," he said, and ran a finger across Anko's cheek, rubbing off a bit of the dry blood there.

Anko narrowed her eyes, pulling back from his touch. She raised a hand to try and stop him approaching her any further, but he bat away her shaking fingers as easily as a fly. "What're you..."

"Hey now, don't try and resist. You owe me for paying you out a debt," he said, a taunting smile now on his lips. He stood up and gripped Anko roughly by the arm, with which she responded by immediately trying to escape. He kept a firm grip though, and her drunken state left her vulnerable to him. She swayed as he pulled her out of her chair. No one seemed to care about her mistreatment, and those who did look lost interest and returned to their petty squabbles with other men.

"Stop!" Anko managed to shout, but her voice was lost over the din of the other hotel-goers. She was dragged outside, limbs flailing uselessly against her assailant as she was pulled around into one of the dark alleyways by the hotel. She was getting no help here. When she did finally manage to stick an elbow in the man's face, he countered her strike with a blow of his own. Soon Anko was desperately clutching at a reddened cheek, sore and angry and still very much dizzy from her drinks. "You piece of shit," she spat scathingly. All the man did in response was stick his lips into her neck, kissing it softly.

"Now now, darlin'. Let's make this easy. Just stop your petty strugglin'-"

"Fuck you!" Anko jammed her knee up into her captor's crotch; he let out an anguished wail and let go of Anko's arm for a moment. Using the fence to her left as a support, she fled the man and ran back for the hotel. If she aimed for the stairs then maybe she could capture Orochimaru's attention and have him deal this asshole a world of pain for ever laying a finger on her. She'd do it herself, but all this movement in her drunken state was making her vision spin. Typical.

Managing to get back to the entrance of the hotel, Anko fumbled for the door handle to allow herself in, but not before her arm was grabbed once more by the same guy. This was really getting too much for her right now! She spun back around to face him as he jerked her aside, mind faintly picking up the sound of the door being opened behind her. Not putting so much effort into her struggle this time, fatigued by all that had happened today, she was pulled along by the man. She felt like she was going to pass out, with her vision blurry and headache increasing in strength. The edges of her sight were black and she could feel her other arm being tugged at before hearing the resounding crunch of a broken nose. Anko hoped it wasn't hers.

Her other arm was released - was the guy gone? - and she finally slipped out of consciousness as someone else took hold of her.


"Wake up, Anko" sounded a voice. The same statement was repeated again, but louder this time, until Anko finally began to hear it. Unconsciousness broke into consciousness and her eyes flickered open, reality pouring in alongside a fair bit of light, too. Was it morning? How long had she been out? Trying to sit up made her head spin, so Anko stayed on the floor and allowed everything to come back into focus. When it did, she was surprised to see that her rescuer was none other than Iruka!

"Ir..uka?" she mumbled, squinting at him to see if it was just a trick of the light. Where was Orochimaru? It was morning already- surely he would have finished his meeting and come to look for her? Now she forced herself to sit up, ignoring the thumping pain in her head and looking directly at the Konoha ninja. "What are you doing with me? Where's Orochimaru!?"

Iruka didn't frown or look angry, but grew slightly exasperated, seeming more concerned at her forced movements and the obvious pain it was causing her. "Stay down, Anko! You'll hurt yourself! I carried you out here after I woke up and dealt with that godawful thug. I'm taking you away from Orochimaru. We won't even go to Konoha. You don't like it and that's fine. We'll find somewhere else, just so long as you're not with that snake anymore. He's going to get you killed!"

Anko's despair only grew. How far away from the hotel were they!? She didn't want to be away from Orochimaru right now when things were finally looking up. They were on their way to his main base and then they'd be safe from outside influence and intrusions such as Iruka's. She couldn't understand why he was being so persistent when it was clear Anko didn't want this! "Take me back!" she exclaimed, thumping a fist weakly at the ground. She felt something squish beneath her hand and raised it back up, looking half-heartedly at what she'd destroyed. A ladybird, small and fragile, lay dead on the ground, remnants smeared across the dirt and her fist. She wiped her fist against the grass to clean it off, and a thought whirred through her mind.

That'd be Iruka if he took her back to Orochimaru. If she went back, it'd be by herself. He had to leave on his own or he'd die. ... Orochimaru had ordered her to kill him; she hadn't thought about it at the time, detaching herself, but really, he had done a lot for her. He was possibly the nicest guy in Konoha, and she could genuinely say that he cared about her. Tears brimmed her eyes. For all the shit back in that village, he was the only good thing in her life, but she had to give him up, and if she could do that without him being killed, well, she would be happy with that.

"No," Iruka rebuked, standing firm on his decision to take Anko away from the Sannin. Of course he expected the ever-stubborn Anko to echo his words.

"No," Anko repeated him, but elaborated, "go on your own, Iruka. I'm going back whether you like it not. If you force me I'll be miserable. You might think you're doing what's right but you're not! You're being selfish! You're doing what you think is best for me and not letting me decide what I think is best or what makes me happy. I won't ask you to come back and I won't do anymore against you... I... don't want to see you dead, Iruka. But I do want you gone, and I hope I never see you again for your sake." She finished there and looked around. They were partway up a hill. The town with the hotel was small in the distance. It'd take Anko a while to get back, but not too long considering she wasn't hauling another person this time.

Iruka looked conflicted. He really wanted to stay set on this. Anko was out of her mind, and he didn't trust much of what she said as her own feelings. She'd changed so much and it frightened him to know a person could do such a thing in such a short space of time. But he was swayed, finally, when Anko let out a choked "please," the look on her face one he couldn't argue with. He wasn't happy with the situation at all, and he really wished things could have turned out differently, but at the end of the day he guessed his hopes were simply too high. He had a habit of working himself up for things that would never happen...

"... Okay, Anko," Iruka finally relented. Anko's demeanour didn't change. She didn't smirk or grin to give away any manipulation that had been going on. She just had a sad smile on her face, like she genuinely regretted these events. Maybe she did care for him after all, through the twisted thoughts surrounding everyone else who had previously been in her life. "I'm going to miss you," he admitted, and then added, "so much." Anko nodded a little, her head bobbing tiredly.

"I guess I'll miss you too." She reached out and took his hand in hers, squeezing it comfortingly. "I don't have anything to give you as a parting gift ya' know, but I think I'll be taking that talisman back don't you think?" she managed a small laugh and winked at him. Iruka's chest was bursting with a warm glow, that Anko could have pulled back some of her old cheerful personality for him in this moment. Being reminded of the talisman, and feeling embarrassed that she had found it on him before he had had the opportunity to present it to her, he reached into his pocket and drew it out. The photo had been lost a while back. Iruka passed over the talisman and smiled gently at her.

"Look after it, Anko. I hope it keeps away the nightmares."

"Yeah, me too. Now get outta here ya scrub!" Anko chuckled, trying to remain upbeat even though she felt horrifically unhappy. She leaned in as Iruka was getting up, letting him hug her before she said a last "goodbye."

Iruka smiled before returning the word. "Goodby-achk!" he suddenly choked. His eyes grew curiously wide, confusion on his face as he spluttered out blood. It landed on Anko's cheek, who's own face had split into a look of terror. An intense frown grew on Iruka's face as he looked down at the blood, and then at his stomach. A snake's head hissed there, and it dawned on Iruka just what had happened. His body was shutting down quickly at this point. His head jerked up and he looked once more into Anko's eyes, trying to splutter out a few last dying words. "L-l-l-lo-o-v-ve... y-y-ou" And suddenly the weight of his body collapsed onto Anko's from their previous hug, his breath coming up short before stopping altogether. Anko let out a scream, terrified and in shock of what she'd just witnessed. The snake retracted from Iruka's back and up into the sleeve of a tall, lean, man who looked very much displeased.

"My, my, just what have I come across here," Orochimaru sighed. "How messy," he commented, before walking forwards and using his foot to kick Iruka's dead body off of Anko. Blood pooled around him, and had already stained Anko's front. She looked like a deer caught in the headlights, still grappling to understand the situation. "Get up, my dear." He sounded commanding. "We must leave immediately, and I'm so glad that there's no more distractions to slow down our journey from here."

Anko couldn't form words. She just looked up, fear-eyed at Orochimaru for what he would do to her for this. Or maybe that was just it. Kill Iruka and have no more be said. Now he'd never meddle in Orochimaru's plans again, and Anko would just be left all to the Sannin. Managing to stagger to her feet, Anko looked down at Iruka's body on the ground. All that blood... when she acknowledged whose it was, it made her feel incredibly, horrifically sick.

- - - - - - - - - - ENDCHAPTER - - - - - - - - - - - -

Hey guys 'sup. :u Hell yeah it's been 2 years. What's a good fanfiction without the longest fuckin' Hiatus you ever saw. I'm... okay not gonna lie I probably won't finish this. The only reason you're getting this today is because 13 of the 15 pages were already done from 2 years ago and I decided to finish it and fuck with my original plan a bit. Yeaap. Good author.

If you guys express enough interest in reviews then I can post another chapter just going through the basics of how the story would progress from here to the end? Once this fic's been tied up I'm going to abandon this account for the rest of my life. I've moved from writing to art, which I enjoy a fair amount more, and if I were to write more fanfiction it'd be on another account instead of this one.

But I'm glad you've all enjoyed this story! It means a lot, and I got a few messages asking if I'd finish this (which I didn't get till today cause I forgot my username and password until now hahaa). Your interest really makes me happy. Sorry that my own interests moved on, and I thank you all for sticking with me. You guys are amazing and I wish you all the best. (and omg i'm just so sorry it took 2 years for an update that's really awful dfgjfdg)