Chapter 134

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"Inoichi," Shikaku's face was grim. Grimmer than his teammate had seen it, for a long, long time. "I need you and Chouza to prepare for a mission."

Inoichi couldn't stop the surprise. "Hah. The old team? It's been a while since we've been all out. What's the occasion?"

Shikaku passed him a folder. Clearly stamped with the kind of classification level that shouldn't have been out of the tower, let alone in the Yamanaka Flower Shop, no matter how clean he kept the place.

"Shikaku?" Inoichi asked, much, much more cautiously.

"I'm sanctioning this mission," Shikaku said, which wasn't exactly an answer. Being that he was the Jounin Commander, that meant he wasn't exactly going rogue, but it probably meant that only Shikaku was sanctioning this mission.

Inoichi opened it, and winced. But he had seen worse. Seen worse in person, so it wasn't the horrors of it that had his friend worked up. "I don't see it," he said carefully. "What are the stakes."

"He's after my daughter," Shikaku said, expressionless. There was murder burning in his eyes, though, that cold and black kind that had been quiet for years. That unstoppable force that had dragged them into trouble, sometimes, but had always ended with their targets dead.

Inoichi swallowed and rubbed a hand over his face. "Shikako-chan," he said. And there were pieces missing, of this puzzle. But this filled in more than the official explanation, didn't it? That complete denial that Shikako had been anywhere near, had anything to do with it…

If she had fought, had escaped, some crazed S-rank missing ninja…

If she had been as desperate as her father was now…

"I'll get Chouza," Inoichi said. "I hope you aren't going to get us all killed."

Shikaku's mouth twitched. "Oh, don't worry," he said. "I have a plan."