I'm really sorry for the huge delay. My life has been getting hectic and I am writing an original in tandem with the fanfics. Needless to say, I really want to get back and finish my works so that I can be done with it once and for all.
'Thinking with emphasis/telepathic conversation'
Mors Ex Machina
Chapter 4: Man vs. Machine
Shiki, Ino and Team 8 walked through the straight hallway towards the red door at the far end of the room. Though the hall was air conditioned, the team felt hot with tension as they walked on.
Once again, Shiki felt the rolling sensation of magic. It got stronger as he walked closer to the door.
'This is bad.' He thought as he clenched his teeth. 'With all the high tech stuff, there's no way that thing on the other side is just a golem with swords.'
He paused just a foot away from the door. Hinata noticed this and instinctively used her Byakugan on the door. What she saw on the other side was cause for discomfort. In the middle of the 20 by 20 km rectangular room, lay a green mechanical lion with golden claws on each paw. But it was strange. Not only was it 9 feet in length, but its paws with its four toes and a thumb could double as hands. And its tail looked prehensile only with a sharp 4 feet steel blade at the end.
"A lion?" Hinata muttered in question as she deactivated her ability.
"So it's just a lion. Piece of cake." Kiba answered.
"What if it's a summon?" Ino cut in.
"So what if it is?" Kiba answered with a confident look. "We just ambush it and knock it out."
"Um, Kiba…" Hinata uttered in a nervous fashion.
Pumping his fist the dog boy huffed out. "Yosh, Let's do this."
"We're doing nothing." Shiki and Ino yelled.
Shiki turned to Hinata and said, "Relax Hinata. What is it that you saw?"
Hinata looked down a bit, wondering how to describe such a thing. "Um, it didn't look like a regular lion. More like a puppet."
Shiki's eyes narrowed. 'A robot no doubt. Not gonna be easy to defeat either.' He gazed back at his teammates and knew they weren't prepared to fight a rogue A.I. He shook his head and turned around.
"Hey, we're just gonna leave?" Kiba said, completely confused.
"From what I've seen so far, everything in this building is built using technology and magic from my world. Especially, that thing. We'd be torn to shreds before we even get within three feet of it." Shiki explained as he walked back to the entrance.
"How are you so sure?" Ino asked. "Have you fought this before?"
Shiki paused for a moment and turned to face them. "No, but I've seen what things like that do in my world." 'At least in manga anyway.' His face hardened a bit as he continued. "In any case, we should head back and report in. We'll let the Hokage decide what to do with it."
Kiba scratched his head in frustration. "Fine." He huffed out his frustration and turned around to see the door, still pissed off that he couldn't fight the mechanical beast. "You got lucky." He said to the door.
Suddenly, a large four-foot steel blade pierced through the wall and punctured Kiba's abdomen. His eyes widened in shock and pain as his teammates paled upon seeing what happened.
"Kiba!" Ino yelled as she went over to pull him free.
Suddenly, Kiba's face began to pale unnaturally as his veins bulged and his eyes rolled to the back of his head. Ino begun to react the same, feeling her chakra and life force sucked away.
Shiki suddenly blurred passed them and appeared beside the blade. And with his knife, swiftly sliced at the lines there, destroying it for good. The two shinobi collapsed as the draining effect wore off.
Hinata pulled Ino away from Kiba and said, "Ino are you alright?"
Ino begun to stir as the tail pulled back and a huge claw mark appeared on the door. They saw the right golden claw of the lion protruding from the new opening. It was glowing brightly and a humming sound could be heard from the appendage.
"Damn. Get back!" Shiki yelled as he focused his gaze on the claws. He could see the lines. They were erratic and non-geometrical. A sign that it was a non-living object. He put his knife in a reverse grip and plunged it into the small line of the middle finger claw, causing it to collapse in pieces. Blood flowed from the severed appendage.
"What the?" Shiki yelped out.
The paw shirked back and the lion groaned in an almost human voice. But it was so loud that Shiki and the shinobi had to cover their ears. When the groaning stopped, the door suddenly exploded wide, sending charred metal all over the place. Shiki instinctively jumped onto Hinata, the girl nearest to him, pushing her down just before the shrapnel could reach her.
As he got off and looked back, he saw smoke coming from the lion's mouth. 'Great, it breathes fire. Next thing you know it stands on its hind legs.'
The lion stood on its hind legs looking like a slightly hunched but imposing humanoid creature.
'Thanks a lot Shiki.' He mentally berated himself. He looked back to see Kiba's state and saw that the dog boy was barely conscious. "Get him out of here! I'll buy us some time."
Suddenly, the lion's mouth opened again and a bright red flame begun to emerge from it.
"Crap!" Shiki yelled, as he charged forward and leaped, managing to climb onto the lion's chest and using his free hand to push the mouth upward just in time as a bright stream of fire shot out. Shiki turned his head back one last time and yelled, "GO!"
Hinata quickly picked up Kiba and begun to run down the hallway. Ino did as well.
Seeing that they were out of range he turned back to the lion that used its left hand and peeled Shiki off its frame as it ceased its flame attack. He held the boy by the torso and squeezed, cracking several ribs and piercing his flesh with ease.
"GRAAAHHH!" Shiki yelled in pain. He quickly brought up his knife and with two hands on its grip, stabbed down on to the line at the thumb. He sawed it across, causing it to fall off as more blood flowed from the wound. Feeling the grip weaken, Shiki pulled himself off the hand and collapsed onto the floor. In agonizing pain, he crawled backwards to the entrance till he mustered enough strength to get onto his feet.
The lion didn't let up. It took a step forward and with its left leg, stepped onto Shiki, forcing him back down onto the floor, his back to it. The mechanical beast faced its golden slits for eyes onto Shiki. It begun to sniff him and out of nowhere, a low laugh emerged from it.
"You have the smell of someone who has killed vampires before. What luck. No, it is fate that we met like this." The lion growled out in a very human voice.
Shiki coughed out blood as he felt his lungs collapse from the weight of the mechanical leg on him. But his mind raced from the new revelation he's been getting. 'What is he? An Apostle? And if he is, why is he more steel than flesh?'
Shiki managed to get a look at the right claw and see it reconstruct itself ever slowly. 'Just like Arcueid. He's reconstructing his framework. Definitely a Dead Apostle. But I haven't heard of this one on Ciel's list.'
The lion's eye slits opened up like eyelids to reveal bright red eyes. It gazed down on Shiki with amusement. "You will never be able to kill me the way you are. You are too weak. Your uselessness will be the end of everything and everyone you ever loved." It pressed its leg harder, causing Shiki to yell once more in pain.
Four kunai with explosive tags managed to pierce the oppressive leg and explode, causing the lion to hesitate and fall back a bit, freeing Shiki from his fate.
Suddenly a black wave of bugs surrounded Shiki and carried him quickly to the entrance down the hall where Team 8 and Ino was waiting.
Ino pulled out the keycard from Shiki's pocket and inserted it into the slot, shutting the door for good.
"That won't hold." Shiki coughed out.
"Don't speak anymore or you'll open your wounds further." Ino nearly yelled as she knelt down and carried Shiki on her shoulder.
Without another word, they left the building carrying their wounded.
Just a few kilometers away from the burnt down village lay Shiki and Kiba as Ino made quick work to heal them both. She managed to remove remaining shrapnel and stabilize Kiba despite internal injuries. But if she didn't heal him quickly, she wouldn't be able to heal Shiki next.
Sweat poured down the medic-nin's forehead as the stress started to sink in. She studied the large cut that reached into Kiba's stomach. 'His stomach acid is eating away at the laceration. If I don't heal it in time, it will begin dissolving his other internal organs and cause major internal bleeding.' She then gazed at Shiki who simply stared into the sky despite the claw marks on his body. 'Hold on Shiki. I'll be with you soon.' She placed her hands over the gaping wound and gently applied her chakra, healing it with a dim green glow.
"What was that thing?" Shino asked everyone.
Hinata replied, "Whatever it was, it was very powerful. Shiki was right. We wouldn't stand a chance against it."
Shino looked over at Shiki and pulled out a grey laptop from his green jacket. "I didn't find any files but I found your laptop."
Shiki nodded allowing Shino to return the laptop into his jacket. The blue-eyed boy saw the way Shino tensed slightly. He opened his mouth for a moment to speak but quickly shut it knowing that he'll just worry Ino even further for talking despite injury. He looked to the blonde girl and saw the avid concentration in her eyes. He then saw her hands and the way her chakra was slowly healing the wounds Kiba received.
'Incredible. Not as fast as Ciel's regeneration spell but definitely as good.' Shiki mentally noted.
Ino looked up to Shino and said, "I won't be able to make it in time like this. Where's our backup?"
He replied, "They'll be here soon. Shizune-san is with them."
Ino grit her teeth as she looked back at the wound and saw that cut to the stomach had been fully healed. She stopped momentarily to wipe the sweat from her brow and moved over to Shiki. She knelt beside him and ripped out his shirt to get a better look at his wounds. Though she saw the large scar on his chest, there were more pressing matters. The lacerations to his sides were superficial. But seeing the yellow color around the wounds was far worrisome. She carefully felt those areas as Shiki barely held in a wince from the touch.
'His ribcage is fractured in several places. Some of them are piercing his organs.' Ino mentally noted. 'I need medical tools and supplies to reset the ribs and heal them in place. He might not make it.'
Shiki saw the worry in her eyes. 'I wonder how bad it is? I can definitely feel pain in my sides but it's the pain in my lungs and gut that feels the worst. He must have crushed my ribs bad enough to reach there. Oh…I see. I might not make it.' He shook his head as he took her hands.
"No. Just stay still you idiot!" Ino told him and shoved his hands away. She began to heal the gashes in his sides first. They healed far quicker than Kiba's stomach wound making things easier for her.
"Ino…" Hinata uttered in shock seeing her determination. She then shook her head and pulled out an emergency medical kit from one of her pouches. "Ino, can I close up Kiba-kun?"
Ino looked at her and said, "Can you do it Hinata?"
The Hyuuga heiress nodded.
Ino then replied, "Alright. Then please bandage him tightly to keep pressure on the wound."
Just as Hinata pulled out the sewing kit, a group of Konoha jounins with large backpacks arrived. One of them was Shizune in her jounin outfit. "It's alright Ino. We'll take it from here."
Shizune knelt down beside Shiki and opened her bag as Ino gave her a brief idea of his wounds while the rest started tending to Kiba. In that moment, Shiki was able to get a good look at Ino's face and saw her relief.
"Thank God. You're alright." Shiki weakly uttered as his body grew cold and heavy. His eyelids begun to fall and Ino noticed it. She nearly sat on top of him as she held her hands on his cheek.
"No, please stay awake! Don't fall asleep now!" She yelled out though her words were barely heard by him.
"Hehe. Like a beautiful… Florence… Nightingale…" Shiki uttered as his eyes fell shut.
It was cold…very cold.
He walked through the snow and into the snowstorm as the winds sang a melody fit for a funeral. In this white death, he marched along undeterred by the weather that awaited his demise.
Clad in a thick grey robe with his hood over his head, he marched on, following a trail no human could make. But he was not worried. His, black boots and sleek gauntlets were enough to protect him.
As he followed the trail, he heard the howling of a wolf nearby. He turned his head to see the source and saw a large werewolf carrying a bone staff as tall as it was. On the top of the staff glowed a silver orb that was nailed to it with steel plates and iron rivets. The wolfman raised his staff as lighting crackled from it. He uttered a few Scottish Gaelic words and suddenly aimed the staff at the robed man. A pulse of plasma shot out at the robed man intending to kill him. Instead, it found the snow where the robed man was, exploding in a flash of blue as it did. The hooded man was nowhere in sight.
The wolfman looked left and right seeing no sign of the robed man but he knew he was around.
Suddenly the wolfman fell to his knees, a knife embedded on the back of his nape. Holding onto it was the robed man. He yanked out the knife letting the beast fall dead. He continued on into the snow till he reached a dark cavern where a larger werewolf guarded it with a bone axe. It threw the axe at the robed man who deftly evaded it and ran towards the feral beast. Drawing his knife, the robed man ran as swift as he could. The wolfman was prepared. It swung its right hand horizontally to decapitate the robed man but the killer was quicker and ducked at the last second, embedding his knife on the feral's left foot. Seeing the beast staggered, he rose up, hitting the butt of the blade into the feral's solar plexus, causing it to keel. The robed man followed up by using his left hand and pulling the mane at the back of its head down allowing him to bury his blade down at the dot there that marked the end of his existence. The killer pulled his knife free and pushed away the wolfman to the side. He stood and walked forward into the cavern. He entered a dim, narrow route till he reached the more spacious part of the cavern. A dim glow filled the place thanks to the several torches hanging from the walls. And at the end of the cavern, was a white blade with a red handle buried on the skull of a sitting wolfman long decayed down to the bone.
The robed man walked over to it, not letting go of his current knife. But as he neared, another wolfman dropped down from the ceiling carrying a crossbow. He aimed at the robed man and fired the bolt. The robed man quickly brought up his blade only for the bolt to smash through the brittle steel and ricochet into the man's neck.
The man gasped as he fell to his knees and gaze upon a puddle on the floor. He held his throat momentarily then looked at his hands. Though bloody, it was the growing lines there that worried him. But as he looked up, the wolfman was already in front of him, his crossbow aimed at the man's head. With a squeeze of the trigger, the robed man felt the bolt pierce through his skull.
Then Darkness fell.
Shiki opened his eyes to see a white ceiling. When his vision returned, he saw the lines and dots of death he was accustomed to.
'How long have I been asleep this time?' he thought.
As he sat up, he looked around and saw the hospital room he was in. It was nice and spacious and to his right was the window where he could see the Hokage tower just in the distance.
'Back in Konoha.' He noted. Checking under his shirt, he saw no signs of his earlier wounds. His past ones, like the scar on his chest, were far more visible.
Letting go of the shirt he couldn't help but ponder what happened in that fight. Why was there a high tech research lab? And what was that thing that attacked him and his teammates? Was it truly a Dead Apostle? And if so, how did it get here and fit with everything around him?
The young killer looked over to his left. There, lying down in another bed separated by a screen, was Kiba.
'Poor guy. He barely knew what hit him.' Shiki thought as a sad expression filled his face. 'I don't know what's going on or how things are coming to place but something dangerous IS HAPPENING. And I better find it fast before it finds me. Those visions are starting to form a pattern. And my death, its centerpiece.'
Sister Rossana Yew was a calm and patient woman. Her years as a woman of the cloth, the grinding stone that shaped her into the person she is today. However, even she can lose her cool once in a while and when she lost sight of Shiki and his team the moment they entered the magic guarded door, was an unnerving thing to her. It was the first time that her bird's eye view of the table map was unable to see anything that entered through that hallway. All she saw past that door was a blue screen.
A few minutes after, she saw Ino and Hinata carrying a wounded Kiba back into the entrance of the hallway, panic filling their eyes. Dread filled the nun's instead.
It was a good thing that Akiha had fallen asleep on one of the desks in the room. Had she seen her brother's bloody state, she'd move heaven and earth to get inside that table map to help him. But the nun witnessed it instead. She saw what the shinobi were doing and though she couldn't hear what they were saying, she knew that things were dire.
Since then, the green-haired nun with scars to her neck, has been looking through books on Scottish Gaelic, Old Norse and Old Irish. She devoured every page in hopes of fully understanding the language so she can open up the table map and summon Shiki back to her world.
The nun closed another book on the desk next to a growing pile of them in that circular room.
She rubbed her forehead in frustration. Nothing new about the table map was found. With Farragher's email still on the way, and very little concrete info on the table map, she had no choice but to call in the Burial Agency. She pulled out her cellphone and made the urgent call.
As her phone rang, Akiha woke up and noticed her laptop was still on. Looking at the screen, she saw one new message in her inbox.
"Hello? Can you connect me to the Burial Agency?" the nun spoke. Akiha looked at the woman and heard her say, "Yes…554326…Japan."
After a few seconds, the nun spoke once more. "Hi. It's me. I need you to open up a file for me. I need information on a sect of druids. They go by the name, 'Corran'."
Akiha listened in knowing this could be a potential break in their case.
"Above my rank?" the nun blurted out. She frowned and said, "What do you mean above my rank?"
Akiha's eyebrows rose hearing this. 'What does this mean?'
"Hello? No, I need that info." Sister Yew said to the phone. "People are in danger…no wait…hello?"
She shut her phone and tucked it away, annoyed that she was hung up on. She turned around to see an awake Akiha who asked her, "Is there a problem?"
The nun sighed and said, "Well, they told me never ask about the 'Corran' again because it's above your paygrade."
"Why would they do that?" Akiha asked.
"I think it's a setup." The nun responded. "When a squad from the Burial Agency came and gave me the table map, they told me to guard it and even gave me the proper grade and resources. I still have the official papers with me as proof. It doesn't make sense that they'd void something like that all of a sudden. Especially on an artifact that they couldn't control."
"So in short…" Akiha calmly stated, "Your life is in grave danger at any moment."
The nun nodded to the grim thought. "We don't have much time if that's the case. We need to get him out of there before things get messy."
Akiha exhaled knowing how serious her situation has become. She turned to look at the map and said, "It's a good thing you called Arnbjorg-san earlier. At least we know the purpose it was built for. We better tell nii-san the news."
But then she saw where her brother was, and who he was with. She scrambled to the table hoping her eyes were deceiving her. Putting her hand on the code with zoom on it, she zoomed in and saw that indeed it was her brother with someone she did not want to see him with.
Shiki gaped upon seeing who was standing there in front of the door. Clad in the same purple clothes stood Ino, her hands behind her back.
"Oh…Hi." Shiki said, making a weak wave to her.
She waved back and walked over to him, past the slumbering Kiba. She pulled up a chair beside him, sat there, and gave him the Nanaya knife. "You dropped this when that monster stepped on you."
"Thanks. I wonder what else I forgot." Shiki said, a smile on his face. Briefly, he gazed at the blade and noticed how much wear and tear there was on it. "It's a miracle that this thing's still in one shape." He rested his eyes on Ino and remembered what she did. "Thanks for saving me. I owe you again."
"It's alright. You don't owe me anything Shiki." Ino retorted.
He scratched his head and chuckled a little in embarrassment. "Thanks. And…sorry for everything. It was my fault for disobeying orders and putting me in harm's way."
Ino sighed and looked to the side as she said, "Really, Shiki. You're so reckless. It's like you want to die." She faced him with saucers for eyes and said, "I should kick your ass for making me worry so much!"
"Hehehe…" he chuckled weakly. 'Man this girl's strong willed. So this is what Kohaku would be like if she grew up in a ninja village.'
"I'll try to keep risks minimal and not life threatening." He said to her.
"I wish I could trust you on that. But you're too untrustworthy to be left alone." Ino told him.
'Man. I really ruined her impression of me.' thought, the young killer, as he felt her words stab his heart.
"But you did save our lives back there…" she trailed off. "I guess I can forgive you."
Shiki shook his head and said, "Tell you what, when I get out of the hospital, I'll take you out to dinner."
"Wha-what?" Ino said as her face turned red.
"As an apology for everything I've done so far." Shiki explained to her. "I've been nothing but cruel to you with the way I've been acting. I want you to trust me as much as I trust you. We can go wherever you want within Hi no Kuni. You name it. Ah, except places with four day advanced reservations. I doubt I can squeeze in some money for that."
Ino replied with a chuckle, "You're so romantic Shiki. But I already have someone I like."
He raised his eyebrow at that. 'Oh…Is it Shino? Naw, too creepy. Must be someone who fits her standards. He's probably tall, very smart, very handsome, loyal to the village, and downright perfect or at least looks to be…Yeah, I really doubt she has a boyfriend. Her father gave me the look that fathers give to the first guy in the house.'
"Does he like you too?" he inquired.
Ino flinched a bit in surprise before saying, "Yeah. Totally."
Shiki's gaze softened at her words. "It's alright Ino, you don't have to lie to me. I just want one date to make things right with you. There's no one more important to me than you."
At that, Ino was caught speechless. She gazed at him with wide eyes, thinking he just said the most ridiculous thing.
'Am I dreaming again? A guy…no, Shiki tells me I'm important to him?' Ino thought as she gazed at him with wide eyes, hoping there was a sign he was lying. Yet somehow…her heart told her no—he cares. He truly cares.
She blushed as she looked down a little before gazing at him shyly. Her heart warmed a bit more as she said, "…Okay."
Upon seeing this side of her Shiki also blushed. 'Wow. I knew she was beautiful. But seeing her like this. I never knew she could also be so cute…'
A knock was heard coming from the door. "Shiki, Kiba, you have visitors." Said the nurse behind it before she let in Hinata and Shino.
"Ah, Kiba-kun…you're awake." Hinata said as she noticed him.
'What?' both Shiki and Ino thought in unison.
Kiba relaxed as he pulled back the screen. "Yo…Ah, my head hurts."
"How long were you awake?" Ino asked as she turned to him with a nearly anxious expression.
Kiba frowned a little in confusion till he said, "Ah, just now. What? Did Shiki ask you out or something?"
Shiki sighed in relief as Ino gracefully said, "Of course not. Why would I go out with him in the first place?"
Kiba gave a coy smile and said, "Why are you so defensive? He did right?"
Ino pulled up the imaginary sleeve on her right arm and said, "Get an infection and die you jerk."
Hinata sighed and thought, 'Kiba-kun really doesn't understand the heart of a girl.'
With all the members gathered and in good health, Shiki faced Hinata and asked, "So how long was I out and what happened while I was out? And what did the Hokage say about the mission?"
For a moment Hinata's eyes shifted to the entire group before resting upon Shiki. "You've been out for a day now. After you fell asleep, our backup carried you back to Konoha."
Shiki nodded in reply. That much was a given. However… "And the lion in his den?"
"We told them about it," Kiba started. "But they said to leave it be. They didn't want to fight it."
'Who would?' thought, Shiki. 'Fighting something they knew nothing of would just lead to more casualties and at worst, cause the monster roam free and give the same damage to the populace.'
"We reported the mission to the Hokage," Ino added. "She said not to go back while we're still gathering information on the lion and the Jashinists who destroyed the village."
"I…see…" Shiki though hesitant, commented as he remembered what happened to the village because of a faction of cultists. But he wasn't the only one. The shinobi also remembered what happened to the village. Their eyes dropped down a bit at the horrible memory of the ruined village and the various corpses in it.
"So in the end, the mission failed, didn't it?" Hinata quietly piped out.
Shiki faced Shino and said, "Can you hand me the laptop?"
Shino wordlessly complies handing him the flat piece of silicon and plastic. Shiki places it on his lap and opens it up. As the computer boots, he tells them, "Well, if all of Amano's files are here, we can call it mission accomplished. And if we've hit the jackpot, we might find blueprints on that monster as well as the facility we never got to enter."
Upon hearing that, they remembered what went on there with that mechanical lion. Kiba flinched as the memory wounded more than his pride.
Shiki looked through the computer and saw that Amano's files were there. He smiled and looked at everyone. "You did great guys. Mission accomplished."
All the shinobi gave him curious stares. What was it that allowed him such confidence in the first place?
Ino went over and leaned next to Shiki to see what he was looking at on the laptop. Seeing her there prompted him to scoot over to the side of the bed to allow her to sit though it didn't seem like she noticed the act. So he tapped the new space on the bed, giving her permission to sit there. As she sat down, Shiki looked through Amano, Ryoji's files and saw many blueprints on the facility they came from.
'Looks like the guy is pretty organized. Every file is organized by category.' Shiki said as he looks through the documents within. Looking further, his brows rose a little. 'Here it is. Quantum Physics, Inter-dimensional travel...Alchemy?'
Opening the folder on alchemy, he finds diagrams of magical circles and runes. Most of which, he couldn't understand but nonetheless took note off. 'Mostly theories and a few implementations but everything in here is definitely magus territory. And from the looks of it, this guy knew very little of it. All the things he's written here is basic stuff for a magus. Stuff even I know of.'
But then he opens a folder entitled Lionization. Inside, he sees videologs, each entitled by experiment number.
'I'm gonna need privacy for these ones. Can't let them see too much.' Thinks the young killer. He didn't want to open a potentially sensitive video that could ruin the shinobi's entire mindset and beliefs. After all, they were still unaware that they were living in a bubble world.
"So what do you think Shiki? Anything in there that can help?" Ino asked.
He faced her for a moment and said, "Maybe. I've just browsed through so I can't say for sure what's helpful or not. But I do know that these scientists have been doing unusual projects and that most of them are using magic as their power tool to accomplish it."
"Magic…" Ino phrased as a certain question popped up. "So these scientists can use magic…are they from the same world as you?"
Shiki sighed and said, "Once again…maybe. I don't have a complete background on them but it isn't likely they're from my world. Most of Amano-san's documents on magic and technology are written as if he just discovered them."
"I noticed that everything in that building was new despite the state we found it in." Hinata stated.
The blue-eyed boy nodded. That was the last bit to cement the alibi of the scientists. He closed all the open applications and documents in the computer and faced his crew. "I'll hang on to this. Thanks for everything guys."
Kiba gave him a toothy grin and said, "No problem bro. You can count on us."
Shiki went back to the computer and searched through the other folders and managed to find blueprints of the area that they never fully entered. According to the blueprints, it was a 20 x 20km room designed to be used as a workshop. There were even floor sockets for movable cranes and mechanical arms. Several conveyer belts and a work station were part of the overall design.
"Dang." Shiki breathe out. "Its just a factory for their gizmos. No portal devices here."
He then jumped to the folder concerning Quantum Physics and Inter-dimensional Travel only to find incomplete theses on them.
"More bad news. The Jashinists managed to kill em' off before they could finish their research." He continued, giving the grim facts.
"But why would they attack Karasu-cho in the first place? What was their motive?" Ino asked.
"I'm guessing it's one of two things." Shiki started. He closed the laptop and crossed his arms under his chest. "First: They knew about the science experiments and destroyed all traces under the disguise of genocide."
"It would make sense." Shino added.
"Isn't it easier to just burn down their laboratory and stop the scientists?" Hinata asked.
"Normally, yes. We don't have proof it's a mass cover-up." Shiki answered. He relaxed and closed his eyes for a moment before saying, "What if it isn't?"
"What if, its really just genocide?" Ino shakily concluded.
Shiki faced her and said, "That's the second theory…. They are a cult after all."
"But that's cruel!"Ino yelled. "What kind of a god wants to end all life and bring only despair?"
"Hopefully, a false one." Shiki answered. "Cults aren't known to have real ones most of the time. But whoever is stringing them along is very deliberate and powerful. They're not someone we can take head on."
"Yeah. What he said." Kiba answered.
Shiki cleared his throat and said, "Anyway, we have no choice but to sit that one out."
The shinobi seemed restless despite his clear-cut statement. But regardless, this was one choice they had to begrudgingly accept.
Kiba put his hands behind his back and said, "Well, at least its all over."
"Yeah." Shiki replied. 'Hehe. Though he says that, I bet he'll train hard so he doesn't get stabbed like that again.'
Hinata sighed and said, "But at least we all made it out alive."
"Definitely." Shiki answered. "I'm just glad Kiba made it. Getting stabbed by four feet of steel is no bigie."
"Kiba huffed his chest and said, "Well it did hurt, but there's no way I wouldn't survive. I'm the toughest member of team 8."
"And the luckiest." Ino added. "If you get stabbed one more time, I'm not helping."
"Ino, don't jinx it." Shiki sheepishly replied.
The door opens once more and a male and female nurse enters the room carrying a tray full of medicine and a few injections.
"Kiba, its time for your medicine and tetanus shots." Says the female nurse.
"What?" The dog-boy panics as he eyes the rather large syringe.
"I'll be headed to the bathroom." Shiki says as he shakily gets up from his bed.
The male nurse walks over to Shiki and supports him, taking him to the nearby bathroom. Kiba tries to run but is held down by Ino and the female nurse as Hinata watches helplessly, unable to fathom what to do with the comedic horror before her.
Tsunade sat alone in her office with a hefty pile of papers stacked on her desk. In her right hand, she held a sake bottle whose rim was slightly marked with lipstick from the blonde's lips, and in the center of her desk, the reports from the incidents this week.
Her stress shot up another notch as she stared at the depressing reports. Not only was the Kazekage's life in danger, but also that Akatsuki had the power to endanger him in the first place. And then there were the reports concerning Orochimaru and his cronies slinking their hands in several prisons, 'accidentally' freeing some prisoners.
'I can understand why the Sandaime never stays too long in this place. This job is making my shoulders stiff.' Tsunade thought as she tried to rub the stress away from her forehead.
The Hokage took another swig of the drink before setting it down next to a set of fresh papers she received earlier this morning. Her brows furrowed as she remembered the sad state that Ino and Co. were in when they handed in this report.
'Of all days, it had to be when the Kazekage was kidnapped.' The blonde woman thought.
She took up the papers and read them once again. 'According to the reports and the condition of the buildings and corpses, the massacre was estimated to have happened a few hours before Team 8 and Ino arrived. It's possible that it happened the same time as our shinobi were fighting …the Jashinists.'
She sifted through the papers and read the profiles on the cultists. Needless to say, she was less than amused. 'While not possessing any special jutsus, they make up for it in manpower and tactics. But how is it that an army capable of wiping out a village of 3000 remained hidden until now? This is the first time I've heard of them and NONE of our spies have even come across a rumor of them.'
A man in a large trenchcoat with a blue beanie enters the room. He faces her and says, "Hokage-sama, I have news about the prisoner Team 8 gave us."
"It better be good." She tells him, managing to endure seeing his scarred face.
The man remained impassive but was anxious from the way his feet subtly shifted. "We searched through his memories but found nothing other than his initiation ceremony into the cult."
Her eyes narrowed at this. "Come again?"
The scarred man sighed as he repeated once more. "The only memories we could find were from his initiation. No history, family, or recent events."
"Are you telling me he doesn't exist?" Tsunade asked him.
"Yes." The man curtly replied. "I'm having Yamanaka and his team look into the possibility of a mental countermeasure placed in his brain."
Tsunade replied, "Good work Ibiki. It's the best news I've heard all morning."
"We also took his weapon to our experts for analysis." The man coolly replied despite her earlier sarcasm.
Tsunade nodded and said, "Very well. Tell me as soon as you get some answers. We'll resume interrogation then."
The man bowed a little and walked out leaving Tsunade with more questions than answers. She looked once at the reports before tossing them onto the desk and taking one final swig of sake. She drank as much as she could to drown out her frustrations before setting down the bottle on her desk.
"Mou, I can't take it anymore!" Tsunade exclaimed as she got out off her desk. She walked out of the room, startling Shizune who waited by the door. The frustrated Hokage faced her aide and said, "Let's go Shizune. We're going to drink till the sun sets!"
"EHHH? HOKAGE-SAMA?" Shizune exclaimed, unable to fathom what just happened.
After Kiba's shots and his medicine, the other shinobi left leaving Shiki and the dog boy in the hospital for some much needed bed rest. Kiba managed to sleep soundly after his shots giving Shiki the perfect time for to peer through the laptop from the comfort of his bed.
'Thank God they're gone. I'll finally be able to look through without revealing anything unnecessary. It'd be pretty hard to explain that this world is just a miniature one in my world.' Thought Shiki as he looked through more folders.
He goes back to the folder entitled Lionization and opens it again. Inside, he sees the videologs and opens the first video and sees Amano Ryoji standing in front of the camera.
"I am Amano Ryoji, a scientist working with Jashirnm Applied Sciences. Over the following weeks I will experiment on Fiber-301 and prove whether it is an effective transmutation serum of flesh or not." The scientist explained, his eyes cold but with conviction.
Shiki watched closely as the video on the laptop ran its course. He saw Amano Ryoji move over to the side allowing him to see a bleeding and battered person strapped to a table in what looks to be the medical center of the laboratory he searched through. Shiki looks left and right momentarily to make sure no one was spying before returning back to the laptop just in time to see Amano Ryoji with a syringe standing beside the strapped man.
"Subject is male, 21 years old, blood type B negative." The scientist casually explained. "Has recently suffered lacerations to the abdomen and left shoulder. A major artery was cut in the process and if not treated will lead to death. Both leg bones are broken and extensive surgery and bone replacement is required. He won't be walking out anytime soon."
He then injected the serum into the vein on the man's neck. "Injecting Fiber-301 into the jugular vein. It'll take 3 hours for the serum to circulate the body." The scientist pulls out the needle and faces the camera. "Once completed, the muscle groups will begin reacting with the serum and the fusion process can begin."
And with that, the video stopped. Shiki closed the folders and sat there, pondering what on earth was going on. 'At least I know that the guy was busy. However, thanks to the Jashinists, I'm back to ground zero. What am I gonna do now?'
He sighs as he shuts down and closes the laptop. He falls back down on his bed as he works his mind and plays back everything that has transpired in the last few days. He searched through his memories looking for anything that could help. But to no avail... He was stuck and out of concrete options.
'In the end, all I have left to go on are those visions I've been receiving.' He mused to himself. 'Visions huh? Maybe I might find something if I look back.'
Seeing the opportunity arise, he relaxes his tense nerves, closes his eyes and dives deep into his memories as he looks back at the vivid visions. He starts by looking through the latest one and reviewing it piece by piece. 'At least I know that the hoodie is me. Though if that's so, I'd better avoid wolves, snow and getting shot in the head and neck with an arrow.'
Diving further, he looks back into his first vision and sees all of the events in such clear detail. His eyes opened and widened as he thinks, 'I remember now. That girl I warned was Hinata. Those were events from this world. There's going to be a war… A really big one against an army of zombie-like monsters.'
He placed his hands behind his head and thinks, 'It doesn't seem to have a relation with the Jashinists though. But for all I know, it's their master plan. So many holes and I can't figure out which one to plug. Raghhh…this is so frustrating! Its like the first time I met Arcueid and the vampires...'
He got up and walked to the bathroom. He then stood by the sink, opened the faucet and began washing the frustration away from his face. 'Don't panic. We didn't spend nearly a year doing nothing. I trained for cases like this and its time to put it to the test.'
Suddenly, he hears a familiar ringing noise in the room. Shiki gets up and looks around and hears the ring again only this time, he hears it coming from the nearby closet. He opens it and sees his old clothes neatly hung. He moves his hand into one of the pants pockets and pulls out the electronic device. He places the phone to his ear and says, "Hello?"
"Nii-san, are you alright? Why are you in the hospital?" Akiha asks him with a tone of worry.
"Oh, its just a checkup." He lied. "I decided since I'll be here for a while, I might as well get one while I can."
"Oh. I see." Akiha answers, her tone with a hint of disappointment. "I have some good news for you. We've managed to find a break in this case."
"I'm listening." Shiki answers as he walks over to the window and looks at the sky as if he can see her through it.
"We've learned about what the table map is and what its for." Akiha speaks, her tone void of any previous doubts. "According to our sources, it was created by a sect of druids known as the Corran. They were using it as an experiment to create a world like ours but smaller."
"So in short…they decided to play god." Shiki answers.
"Yes. That's one answer." Akiha replies. She pauses for a moment before continuing. "We've also found some information on one of the founding druids. A man named Jashirnm Arnbjorg was one of the druids who built that world. According to our sources, his soul was trapped in that world after his execution by the church."
Shiki couldn't help but smile. "So all I have to do is find this guy and ask him for the way out? Things have gotten simpler."
"Indeed." Akiha answered. "Nii-san, he might be anywhere in that world so you have to start looking as soon as you are out of the hospital."
Shiki quipped back, "Got that right. Can you track everyplace with a strong spiritual presence? I mean you can already track me so…"
"We'll see if we can." Akiha answered. "Are you doing okay nii-san?"
"Don't worry I'm fine. I've got some good friends taking care of me." Shiki answered.
"Oh? You sound very happy with it." Akiha answered.
"Of course I am." Shiki replied. "I actually have people in this world who will help me out. I'll be fine Akiha. I'll be back before you know it."
"I hope so nii-san. Arihiko called me and asked about you. If you don't come back soon, other people are going to start worrying."Akiha told him.
'Definitely. A week is bad enough. Can't let it get farther than that. Kohaku and Hisui are already very worried by now.' Thought Shiki. He took a gander at the street below before saying, "Thanks Akiha. I couldn't have gone this far without you."
"Not a problem. Listen, if there's anything you need, we can drop the things for you." Akiha tells him.
Shiki replies, "How about a gun and some body armor?"
"Sure. You can scare off the wolves with it." Akiha retorts.
Shiki chuckles before replying, "On a serious note, I do need some clothes and a few more things like binoculars and military grade gloves and boots."
"Why? What are you trying to do?" Akiha asks. A pause later and her tone changes. "Nii-san…did someone hurt you?"
"Of course not." Shiki answered. "Just a safety precaution. Not to judge, but our technology is vastly superior to theirs despite their incredible skills. Plus I don't have enough money to buy an outdoor kit here."
"Oh. I see." Akiha replied in surprise. "If you really need such equipment, then I can arrange to gather everything you need."
"Why do I get the feeling this involves abusing your power?" He asks in anxiousness.
"Nii-san, it isn't wrong if my power is used for someone's good. Do not be afraid to ask for your needs. I will gladly supply them." Akiha answers.
Shiki sighs once more at the heartfelt statement his sister made. "Alright, you win. I'll mail you the list in the morning. You need to rest too. I'll see you later Akiha."
"Goodbye, nii-san." Akiha answers just as Shiki closes his phone.
Tucking it back into the pocket of his pants, he walks back to his bed and sits down, with hope filling his heart.
'Another way out.' Thought the teen.
He could barely keep his excitement as he sat on the bed. "Thank God, We're finally on track. I guess miracles can come true."
He lay down on his bed with a smile on his face. There was a way out and a clear direction. But then the memories of Karasu-cho haunted him. His smile faded as he thought, 'Still…I don't want to leave without knowing why I was sent here. If it's to rid the Jashinists, I'd gladly do it.'
And he shut his eyes and laid down to rest.
Morning rose again and so did the sleepy village named Konoha. Many awoke to open up their shops, or get to their duties. This included the heiress of the Yamanaka Flower Shop. She didn't like to watch the shop as there were better things to do, but she couldn't go against her mother.
She sat by the counter, reading the latest edition of Konoha Fashionista. Occasionally, a customer would enter and exit the store. But for the most part, it stayed empty.
As she sat there, she couldn't help but remember what Shiki told her yesterday.
'Asking me out all of a sudden like that. Haah…that really surprised me.' Thought the blonde. 'But it was the first time a boy asked me out. No one has ever done that for me or cared for me that way. What's next? He comes here asking for my hand in marriage?'
She sighed deeply with her eyes shut, and her magazine now resting on the counter.
"Hey Ino, are you ready?" said a familiar teen voice.
Without missing a beat, Ino framed her hands to her face and said, "But it's too soon Shiki. We're still kids…"
"What are you talking about?" said the confused teen voice.
"And besides, I still have someone I like…and…" Ino continued not realizing what she was doing.
"Hey, Ino wake up. Asuma doesn't want us to be late for the training." said, the teen voice.
Ino furrowed her brows a little before opening her eyes and seeing Shikamaru. "Ah! Shi-shikamaru…Whatareyoudoinghere?" She nearly spat saying.
"Oi, oi, that's what I was going to ask." Shikamaru retorted. "Did you forget about today?"
"Today?" Ino absentmindedly said. But then she quickly remembered. "Ah, today's Asuma's trainingday."
"Good that you remembered." Shikamaru stated with a relaxed tone. "Chouji's already there so we're the only ones he's waiting for."
The two of them walked out the shop and marched all the way to the training fields just a little beyond Konoha. As they arrived, they saw in the middle of the grassy training field by the lake, their teammate Chouji and their old teacher, Asuma who carried a heavy backpack.
The pair walked on till Chouji and Asuma recognized them and began waving for them to come over.
"Konnichiwa, Asuma-sensei." Ino greeted him.
"Yo." Asuma greeted back with a smile.
"Sensei, what are you going to train us in this time?" Chouji asked. Ino and Shikamaru nodded in agreement.
Asuma looked at his young students and retained his smile as he said, "Today will be especially tough. I won't go easy on you."
The students tensed for a bit as Asuma put down his bag and unzipped it. They swallowed hard as Asuma reached his hand in the bag and pulled out…a bag of steak.
"Eh?" the three students unanimously uttered.
"Today, we're going to be eating out here." Asuma replied, his smile even brighter.
The three nearly fell apart when they heard that. "Wait a second, you brought us out here to eat BBQ? Why don't we just go to the usual place?" Ino asked.
"It's great to eat outside once in a while." Asuma reasoned.
"It's okay Ino. It's not everyday we eat with Asuma-sensei these days." Chouji added.
Ino placed her hands on her hips and sighed as the other two teens went over and helped out Asuma, prepare the BBQ. Once all preparations have been made, they gathered around the BBQ and carefully placed the strips of meat onto the hot grill.
"Actually, I have something important to tell all of you." Asuma told his students.
He took a deep breath before saying, "I'm getting married."
Smiles were seen growing on his students. Ino in particular, squealed. "Yaaahh! Asuma and Kurenai-sensei are finally getting married!"
Asuma blushed a bit and scratched the back of his head.
Shikamaru also smiled and said, "She finally reeled you in to do it."
"Hehe. You got me there." Asuma bashfully replied. He then took his chopsticks and flipped over the meat on the grill. "There's still a few weeks before the marriage but I want to invite all of you to join us."
"No need to ask sensei." Chouji assured him. "You get the first bite, sensei."
"Well said Chouji." Shikamaru added.
Asuma's eyes widened a bit then settled down as he said, "Also, there's another thing I have to tell you."
"Another?" Ino piped in.
Asuma replied, "I'm being sent to investigate the Jashinist Order. I'll be gone for a week or two so I need you three to take care of Kurenai for me."
As soon as Ino heard that, her eyes widened. 'They're finally investigating the cultists.' She suddenly asked, "Do you know where they are?"
Asuma replied, "No. But we're going to patrol the surrounding villages to see if they've seen any of these guys."
"Who are the Jashinists?" Shikamaru asked.
"They're a cult that wiped out a village of 3000." Ino answered.
"Woah. That's serious." Chouji piped in.
"It is." Asuma added. He faced Ino and said, "You've seen them first hand. What do they look like?"
All eyes were on Ino as she begun to describe the cultists to them. "They wear black outfits, carry curved swords and round shields and they wear a face mask that looks like a skull."
"Well, they'll be hard to miss." Shikamaru answered.
"Unless they only move at night." Chouji retorted.
Asuma picked up a sliver of cooked meat from the grill and blew on it twice. "Either way, they have a strong character. It won't take too long to find them."
Chouji followed soon and took a piece of meat for himself. Shikamaru and Ino did so as well but not as quickly as their plump friend.
Shikamaru suddenly asked Ino, "I heard about what happened with that guy and Kiba. Did they pull through?"
Ino nodded and said, "If it weren't for Shizune-san, either of them could've died. But they're staying at the hospital now so they're okay."
Chouji added, "Then who's that guy walking through the forest?"
"Huh?" Ino uttered before looking at the same direction as Chouji. She nearly dropped her food as she barely caught a glimpse of what looked to be like Shiki fading into the trees.
Shiki, still dressed in his hospital gown, walked over to the clearing with the three stumps on it and looked to the sky.
"Should be coming in anytime now." He said out loud.
Just as he did, a crate fell from the sky and landed hard on the ground, shaking loose some of the metal rivets holding it together. The blue-eyed teen walked over to the crate and pulled out some of the rivets holding one side up, causing it to fall down. Inside, he saw several military grade, metal containers.
"I did say military grade." Shiki says as he pulls out the containers out of the crate. He then moves over to the first container and opens it up. Inside, he sees a vest like no other. It was a bladeproof vest adorned with scriptures and all sorts of archaic writings. As Shiki reached in to grab it, he felt a powerful aura emanating from it. "Blessed by the church." He blurted out as he looked at it and noticed a note attached onto the collar of the vest. He read it and it said,
This is Blade-proof armor made by the Holy Catholic Church for the Burial Agents. It is also blessed to hinder spiritual attacks. There is a full suit with it and three special items. It looks like it won't be enough though. The ninjas of that world are very fast and you need to be able to move at their speed to catch up.
Be careful Shiki. Don't get into any fights.
-Sister Rosanna Yew
He takes out the vest and sees the rest of the suit inside the container. It composed of a black, turtle neck, zip up shirt made from Kevlar thread, a similar color and material for the cargo pants, black shoulder pads, elbow pads, greaves and gloves with military grade ceramic and steel plates in strategic places, and the same colored knee pads and shin guards with the same grade of ceramic and steel plates to protect those areas.
"Damn. I'm gonna look like a Spec Ops guy with this suit on." Shiki exclaimed as he put the vest to the side.
He walks over to the second container, which was slightly smaller than the first. Opening it, he sees some neatly stored food in plastic containers, some other daily necessities, black, military boots and a gray robe with a hood.
"You've got to be kidding me." Shiki says as he stares down the gray robes and black boots. He blinks twice…it still remained. He looks at the food and sees Kohaku's signature and chibi drawing on the lid of the plastic containers.
"Damn you Kohaku. You're pushing me into the prophecy." Shiki grits out while glaring at the special articles of clothing.
He turns to the last container and opens it in hopes of finding something less unfortunate. Inside he sees an earpiece, some contact lenses, and a strange, handheld radio-like device.
He puts on the earpiece on his left ear and presses the button on it.
"Can you hear me Shiki?" Says Sister Rosanna over the earpiece.
"Loud and clear. This'll make things easier." He tells her. "By the way, what's with the contact lenses and radio?"
"They're special devices made by the church to support our agents." She answered. "The contact lenses allow you to see in infrared and sonar vision at thought. They will also not slip off while the user wants to wear it."
"That's incredible." Shiki replies. "Mental linked devices are far too advanced for even our society. The church is really something these days. Oh, what about the radio?"
"The radio is actually a field generator. It creates a skin-tight field around the person and protects against 30% of all physical and magical attacks. Also, you can explode the field outward, creating an anti-magic field for a few seconds." Sister Rosanna explained.
"Like a portable EMP generator(1). What's the estimated range of the blast and for how long?" Shiki asked.
"About 50m. You only have ten seconds till the effect wears off. Don't worry about your stuff getting fried, they're shielded when they're in the suit." She told him.
"Wow. My respect for you guys raised a notch. As well as my fear." Shiki almost shakily answered.
"Hahaha. Don't worry, I'm on your side." The nun assured him.
"I'll try the contacts first." Shiki said as he moved over to them and began putting them on.
"Wait! Those con—"
He put them on and felt them grip his eyes as magic started forcefully pouring into his eyeballs and through the veins there. He held his eyes, fell down and began writhing on the ground in pain as more magic poured into them. After two seconds the pain receded but the numbing effects remained for a bit longer.
"Shiki are you alright? Shiki?" the nun said in panic.
"Barely…" he managed to grunt out, still holding his hands over his eyes. "Let me guess, they imprinted on me to create the mental link?"
"Yes. It hurts the first time but you won't feel any pain afterwards." She told him. "I think you're good to go. Try them out now. Think about turning on the infrared."
Shiki took a deep breath as he put down his hands and lay on his back. He did as he was told and began to see in infrared. The sun was so bright white that he had to look elsewhere, like the nearby trees where the colder colors were. But he did see birds in the trees as bright white. He then thought of turning the ability off and his vision returned to normal.
"What did you see?" the nun asked.
"Warm things in bright white." He retorted. "I'll try sonar now." He then thought of seeing in sonar and immediately, his vision turned black. But then he started to see things in a sort of blue haze with objects having a form of transparency. Things that made the most sound tended to become brighter, sharper and more opaque, like the ants on the ground and the birds in the trees. He sat up and saw a rabbit hiding behind a tree, trying to dig a hole.
"I kinda like these contacts." Shiki said as he deactivated them. He stood up and said, "These new toys will keep me from turning into their prey." He looks up at the sky and says, "Sister Rosanna, I have one small favor to ask."
"Yes, what is it?" She asks in curiosity.
"Get a laser pointer." He replies.
"Why?" she asks now in confusion.
"Just in case. Get the one that actually burns things." He tells her.
"Shiki, just tell me what you need it for." She answers with a hint of annoyance.
But the blue-eyed teen shakes his head and says, "Its not for me. It's for you. There might come a time you'll have to intervene and that could be my only hope."
"Tell me already." The nun replied, completely annoyed. "What's the laser pointer for?"
He scratched his head knowing she wasn't going to like the idea. But he faced the sky once more and said, "Orbital Bombardment. I need you to use the laser pointer as a Kill Satellite."
"A what?" the nun gasped.
"Yeah, I figured you'd say that. It's a safety precaution really." Shiki sheepishly tells her.
"No Shiki. Just, no." she flatly tells him.
"Alright then." He replies. "I'll just take these back to my shack."
He packs up the metal containers and manages to glance at a piece of rope from inside the crate. He goes in and takes it and wraps the containers together with it. He carries the wrapped objects and ties it on his back and begins his steady walk back to his apartment. But as he does so, he felt a familiar presence in the air. On instinct he finds the nearest tree, climbs up the branches till he was deeply hidden by the foliage. Looking down he sees Ino enter the clearing, looking around.
'Crud, a search party!' Shiki mentally berates. 'Didn't think the nurses spread word that quick.'
Ino continues on into the forest till she couldn't be seen. The blue-eyed boy watched on for a few more seconds till he felt it was safe enough to come down. But the moment he landed he felt rooted to his spot. Shiki notices that his shadow was extending unnaturally to his left. He looks there and sees Shikamaru holding the 'rat' handseal, about ten feet away.
"Kagemane no Jutsu, complete." Said the lazy genius.
"Bait and Lure…not bad." Said Shiki, "I guess the jigs up."
"Yep." Shikamaru curtly spoke. "So what're those crates for?"
"Protection from your types." Shiki honestly answered. "I have some martial skills but not enough to bring down a shinobi without some stealth. These will balance those odds a little bit in my favor."
"Sounds dangerous." Shikamaru answered. "Planning to go against shinobi will put your health at risk. I suggest you drop the idea quick."
"Can't do that. Not when you've seen this much. Did it scare you when you saw my friends hand over the crates?" Shiki calmly stated.
"Friends?" Shikamaru intoned.
'So he hasn't seen anything. The sound of the crates drop, or my voice must have told them where I was.' Thought Shiki. He smiled a little and said, "You know, the guys hiding in the forest. About five of them total. They did say they were paranoid, being Iwa-nins and all."
Immediately, Shikamaru's eyes widened. 'I was careless. I didn't account for a squad of Iwa-nins in the forest. Mendokuse. I can't warn the others while watching him.'
Shiki began to feel the jutsu's grip loosen. He rotated his right hand so that the acorn, cradled by his fingers, was aimed at Shikamaru. He quickly glance to the right and said, "They've found us! Run!"
Shikamaru looked and saw a silhouette of what seems to be a shinobi, coming into the forest. He tensed for a moment, causing his concentration to break even further. This was it.
Shiki flicked the acorn at Shikamaru's head, causing him to break the jutsu. The blue-eyed teen darted further into the forest at breakneck speed.
"Kuso!" Shikamaru yelped as he watched Shiki get away. But he had other things to deal with. He swirled his head to see the shinobi figure get closer into the forest. He prepared his kunai and was about to throw it until he realized it was Asuma.
"Did you find him?" Asuma asked.
"Yeah." Shikamaru. "He pulled a fast one on me."
"Oh? A civilian tricked you? You're getting dull Shikamaru." Asuma told him.
"Mendokuse. Don't tell anyone about this. Especially Ino." Shikamaru answered.
"Don't worry. I don't want to anger her either." Replied, Asuma.
After having managed to evade several familiar faces and delivered his crates to his apartment, he quickly ran back and snuck into the window of his hospital room like nothing ever happened. Luckily, Kiba was getting a checkup so the room was empty. He casually lied down on his bed and pulled the sheets over his legs just in time as the nurse walked in.
"Bu-but…you were…where did you go?" She stuttered upon seeing Shiki back in bed.
"I walked over to the vending machine bought a drink, then had to go to the bathroom so I went to the one in the nearest floor." Shiki explained.
The nurse huffed as the veins on her forehead throbbed. She didn't even bother to yell, as it was too embarrassing to admit she caused a commotion in the hospital for nothing. "Be glad you're being released today. I hope you never come back." With that, she walked out, shutting the door behind her.
Shiki scratched his head and said, "Sorry about that nurse. Sometimes a man needs his alone time."
But the door opened once more, revealing Ino to be at the door. "Shiki, were you in the forest today?"
"I was here the whole time. But I am being released today." He told her.
She walked over to the side of his bed and pulled out the chair there to sit. "Thank God. I swore I was imagining things when I thought I saw you enter the forest awhile ago."
"My haircut is pretty generic." He told her.
"It's okay. The short hair suits you." She said to him. But then she noticed something on his face. "You used to wear glasses before."
"Oh…how did you know?" he asked.
She pointed at the bridge of his nose and said, "You've got nose-pad marks on your nose. How can you see now?"
He chuckled and answered, "Well, in my world, they've developed special lenses that can be worn directly on the eye to aid in sight. We call them contact lenses. I'm wearing some now actually."
"Wow. That's so cool. But how do you take them off?" she asked.
"You usually peel them off." Shiki answered.
"hmmm…" hummed the blonde girl as her mind started moving in a different direction.
"Something up?" Shiki asked.
"You know Shiki, I've been wondering, how is it you could fight off that monster back in Karasu-cho?" She asked him.
'(sigh) can't hide that anymore.' Thought the blue-eyed boy. "Well, I've been in a similar situation. Like I told you before, I have experience with the weirder things in my world. Part of that had to deal with monsters bigger than me. I'm no shinobi but I had to fight or learn how to before I get killed off."
"Like what kind of monsters?" She asked.
"I'd tell you if you tell me who you like." He replied.
"Are you jealous Shiki? …hehehe." She playfully answered.
"Curious and Jealous." He told her.
"Well, he was the best shinobi of our batch." She started, blushing as she did. "He was really cool and handsome and smart. But he also had a dark past. He was the last of his family after his brother turned on them and wiped out the entire clan."
Shiki's eyebrow rose a little at the seemingly familiar setting.
"Ever since then, he dedicated his life to becoming his family's avenger." She concluded.
"So, he's out there looking for his brother?" Shiki asked.
"Yes. He's going to find him and bring him back to justice." Ino said with a hint of sadness.
'Ah…I see now. A real heartbreaker or rather a focused weapon. He's not gonna stop until he finds his brother and I'm not sure I like where it's going. It's just like SHIKI if I had wronged the family.' Thought Shiki.
"So what's his name in case I meet him?" He asked her.
"Uchiha, Sasuke." Ino told him her eyes nearly lighting up as she said his name.
Outwardly, Shiki wasn't fazed by her expression. Inwardly though, he felt his heart tug a little. 'She fell for a jerk. Seriously…I doubt she really knows him well. It's just a crush for sure.'
A nurse entered the room and said, "Tohno-san, your release papers are with me."
Shiki got up from his bed and said "Alright. Let me just use the bathroom to change first."
He then went over to the closet and took his clothes to the bathroom. As soon as he shut the door, the nurse chuckled lightly at Ino before saying, "He's not too bad, Yamanaka-san. Nice catch."
"Mou, we're not a couple. He's a troublemaker and always puts himself at risk." She corrected the nurse.
"Oh, but you're always are first to the scene when he's involved. I thought for sure you two were a couple." The nurse stated, a little confused.
"No, its just that I worry he's going to do something crazy and hurt himself over it." Ino replied.
"Is that so? You're quite the dedicated nurse. Tsunade-sama would be proud." The nurse answered.
Shiki emerged from the bathroom fully dressed in his white shirt and blue pants combo and went over and signed the papers. With that, the nurse left to send the papers for discharge.
"I guess I'll see you later Ino." Shiki told her.
"Wait, you haven't told me yet." She said, stopping him momentarily.
"Right, nearly forgot." he said before he took a deep breath. "The monsters I fought, were vampires."
"What are those?" Ino asked, confusion written over her face.
Shiki shook his head and said, "I'm glad you don't know them. They feed on people and drink their blood to prevent their own deaths. But the worst part is that as soon as you're bitten, there's a good chance you'll become a mindless drone with the same hunger. And if you bite someone else, a cycle is created and the disease spreads."
She was speechless from what she heard. But was it in awe or confusion?
"Sorry, I guess it was a little too much to understand." He said, not sure if she understood anything he said.
She shook her head and said, "No, I totally understand. You're a very skilled fighter."
"Oh…" Shiki replied, a little bashful. He blushed and looked down a bit as he said, "I…uh…I…thanks, I guess. No one's ever complimented me on that."
Ino smiled, having been able to repay his compliments at least once.
Suddenly a pebble flew and struck the window, but was unable to fully penetrate. Instead, it sat there like a bullet caught in bulletproof glass.
Ino and Shiki leaped back to the hospital door after hearing the crash. He stood in front of Ino and said, "Behind the walls, now!"
"Who did this?" she asked him.
He ran past the door, dragging Ino by the hand with him. They both leaned on the wall as the nurses stared at their antics.
Shiki peeked a little to see who their adversary was only to see a monkey by the window.
"Really? A monkey?" he asked to no one in particular.
Ino peeked as well and said, "What's a monkey doing here?" she approached the ape and put her hands on her hips. "Where did it come from?"
Shiki walked to Ino's side and said, "A runaway I guess. No other reason unless he was summoned."
"True." She said as the monkey quickly scurried away. "Well someone has to report this. Um if it's okay, we'll talk later Shiki. I have to find our problem child and bring him home."
"Man you are one dedicated nurse." Shiki told her with a smile. "No wonder everyone admires you."
"Does that include you?" she asked almost playfully.
But before he could answer he heard a very angry, but low voice echo in his earpiece. "Nii-san…why are still talking to her? Haven't I warned you already about the consequences of getting too close?"
Suddenly Shiki put two and two together and got the dreadful picture straight. He relaxed himself just enough to say to Ino, "I'll answer that in time. For now, I gotta go too. I'm really sorry, but my apartment still needs cleaning to do. I have been out for nearly a week."
"Okay Shiki." She said with a smile. "Later then."
Shiki casually but quickly strided out of the hospital and sat on a nearby bench. When no one was in sight, he decided to confront Akiha. "You know, your throwing arm is getting better. A little bit more power and you'd cleanly kill my friend."
"It was a slip of the wrist. I intended to hit the monkey climbing up your window." Akiha jested almost menacingly.
"Akiha, I know you're worried…" Shiki returned.
"But Shiki-san…you have a bad habit with women." A familiar but lighthearted voice spoke instead.
"Kohaku? Is Hisui also there?" said the surprised teen.
"Hisui-chan is busy cleaning the house. It's just me." She answered. "Shiki-san, I think I know why you keep talking to her."
Shiki barely but definitely heard a low gasp coming from Akiha. Nevertheless, Kohaku continued. "Shiki-san, you really like blondes."
Shiki heard the dead silence from the other line. 'Uh…well, kinda. She does have Arcueid's hair but I doubt that's it. In reality, she's a blonde you…less tragic of course.'
"Nii-san…" Akiha suddenly interrupted. "Do you really like foreign girls?"
"Akiha, I'm just nice to everyone. It doesn't mean I like her." Shiki assured her.
"I'm disappointed in you Shiki-san." Kohaku interjected. "Treating a woman's heart like that is horrible."
"Would you prefer I ask her out and take her to my shack after?" Shiki sarcastically asked.
"Better that than indifference." Kohaku retorted. "Just be honest Shiki-san. She'll like it more."
"She will?" Shiki said hoping it was true.
"hehehe…yes. She'd love you for it." Kohaku replied, her sly tone nearly betraying her voice.
"Thanks Kohaku. I'll try it and see what happens." Shiki told her. "Anyway, I have some things to deal with first. I'll talk to you later." He pressed the button on the earpiece and ended the call.
But while he went on his way to finish the chores of his apartment, back in the basement of the church, Akiha, Kohaku and Sister Rosanna huddled in a circle, dealing with another but very serious matter.
"Nii-san has fallen for her." Akiha said in an almost sad tone.
"Don't worry Akiha-sama, she's a good girl who'll take care of him." Kohaku answered.
"If worse comes to worse, she'll be there for him Akiha." Sister Rosanna added.
"It's not that I'm worried about." Akiha claimed. "Eventually, he'll have to leave that place and return home. If he still has feelings for her then, it'll be harder for him to end the relationship just like the first time."
Kohaku's smile nearly slipped hearing that. While she did not personally know Arcueid, she heard enough details from Shiki about what happened on that fateful night in the school. "Akiha-sama, what if it doesn't happen that way?"
"It will. He still thinks of home." Akiha answered while she crossed her arms under her chest.
"He still loves you Akiha. That's why he still answers." Sister Rosanna said to her and took a step closer. "I think you should let him decide if he wants to leave. He's a grown boy. I want you to treat him like one."
Akiha sighed, unable to defeat the nun's logic, shrugged her shoulders and frowned before saying, "Do what you want."
The nun smiled at Akiha and said, "Let's go get our hair dyed. I've always wanted to change my hair color."
"It's fine I still have to deal with the Tohno family accounts." She answered.
"It doesn't take long. Just an hour." The nun persuaded.
"It's really fine. I don't need to go." The Tohno head replied.
"Akiha-sama, we should get going soon. You'll be late for the meeting." warned Kohaku.
Akiha faced the nun and said, "Inform me if there are any changes in his situation."
The nun nodded as Akiha and Kohaku climbed up the stairs and left the church. With the two other girls gone, the nun looked at the table map with an anxious look in her eyes. While Shiki was safe for now, she was still bothered by the fact that the agency had cut her off.
'There's no telling what could happen now. If the agency wanted to, they could be at our doors right now. So what's holding them back?' she pondered.
She shut them and placed her hands together and prayed, "O, Heavenly Father, guide our sheep to safety. Let none of our enemies come before it's too late. And please, keep Shiki and his friends away from imminent danger. The lions are near Lord. Very near."
1) EMP – Electromagnetic Pulse. A blast of energy that disrupts and disables electronic devices. Not harmful to living things but can be hazardous to those near electronic devices.
Author's Notes – This was the most difficult piece I've ever written. I'm serious. I haven't written anything in a long time so getting back to typing was hard. I guess in the end, writing is a muscle, the less you practice it, the more difficult it becomes to try it again.
I was worried at first with the flow as it seemed to die out in some parts but eventually, I was able to rewrite it into something better.
I'm pretty happy about the character's interactions, most especially Ino and Shiki's.