"Well, aren't you an overdramatic little whelp. You ever hear of something called a door?" Tsume grinned wolfishly, the first one brave enough, or perhaps foolish enough to break the silence. She seemed entirely unaffected by the oppressive chill, the only sign of her discomfort revealed in Kuromaru's raised hackles, his canines bared for battle.
"But you make a good point." Tsume tapped a clawed fingertip on the table, the surface scattered with ash and dust and the remnants of what was once the ceiling. "I move to recognize Hatake-dono's motion to sentence the traitor Shimura Danzou to death."
The balance of the world shifted on the smallest of movements: a knife to the heart; a kiss on the forehead; the truth, simply spoken.
The Sandaime made a small, silent gesture with his hand, and the array of swords disappeared in a flurry, ANBU operatives slickly sheathing their weapons and stepping back into position as if Hatake Kakashi hadn't, quite literally, crashed the Tribunal.
"Motion recognized," the Sandaime said. "And seconding motions?"
Fugaku raised his head. "I second," he said in a firm, if hoarse voice, as if he had already shouted himself raw in his own thoughts.
And so, as if on some unspoken signal, the room began to fill with echos of the same two words, I second, I second, I second, until it came to the last person to speak. Homura was silent for a long moment, his head bowed over his clasped hands.
"He only ever thought about the Village," Homura said finally, the words slow and unsteady on his tongue. "He only ever thought of his duty to us all."
The Sandaime recalled one moment, so very long ago during the First War, when they had all gathered together during the freezing winter night, sharing cold, wet meal rations and warming their fingers with licks of tame chakra fire. Danzou alone sat apart, his hands wrapped around the hilt of his sword, watching, waiting, guarding them all from the enemy that lay beyond in the darkness.
In some ways, the Sandaime thought, Danzou had never left that night.
"I know," the Sandaime said, gently. "But that does not mean his actions have not caused us all great harm. I can understand, but I cannot forgive. Not in this."
Homura looked up, his deep-set eyes glittering behind his glasses. Then, at last, came the truth, simply spoken: "I second."
"It is unanimous," the Sandaime said. "We hereby pass judgement upon Shimura Danzou, in absentia, and find him guilty on all accounts. He is to be sentenced to death, effective immediately."
The Sandaime paused, and raised his head to meet Kakashi's flat, unyielding gaze. He still stood amidst all the wreckage, unruffled, as the Tribunal came to a close around him.
"Hatake-dono. Are you willing to bear the responsibility to carry out this charge?"
The mask on Kakashi s face shifted, obscuring what the Sandaime knew to be a thin, humorless smile. "I thought you'd never ask, Hokage-sama."
There was a toad waiting on the Hokage's desk, lounging carelessly on a stack of paperwork. He was busy using the pointy end of a pencil as a toothpick, his bulging eyes rolling in deep contentment.
"So you did receive Jiraiya's message," Kakashi said, standing loosely at a ready position as the Hokage settled himself in his chair, adjusting his heavy red and white robes.
"A message, yes, if you could even call it that. He said that he had collected additional evidence regarding Danzou and mentioned that you were somehow involved. I put two and two together but somehow, it didn't quite involve…" The Sandaime paused.
"I was, perhaps, a little over enthusiastic about my entrance," Kakashi said blandly.
The Sandaime gave him a look that Kakashi chose to ignore.
"If I had not entered as I did, would you have gotten your unanimous vote?" Kakashi asked, quiet.
The Sandaime hesitated, then shook his head. "Perhaps, perhaps not. Nevertheless, how did you-"
There was a sudden knock at the door- a door that did not exist mere moments ago. There came a muffled "Excuse me" and the door swung open, revealing Tenzou's tired, but determined face.
"I apologize for the intrusion, Hokage-sama," Tenzou said doggedly and stepped into the room, the door melting away behind him to become plain, unmarked wall once more. "Your guards refused to let me through but I had to get in anyway to stop Kakashi-senpai from doing something stupid again."
"Ah," the Hokage said, realization dawning on his face. "Tenzou, did you, perhaps…?"
"I didn't know he was going to break the secret room when I told him where it was," Tenzou said, so aggrieved that all his normal deference had been purged out of him. "He said it was an emergency and he had to talk to you and the Council right away about something involving Danzou."
"He'll be happy to fix it," Kakashi interjected, ignoring the furious glare Tenzou shot his way.
"You have my thanks, Tenzou-kun," the Hokage said gravely. Tenzou immediately colored, as if suddenly remembering in what particular company he was in and ducked his head, muttering something about it being an honor to be of service.
Kakashi turned back to the Hokage, and he could feel the time ticking steadily on, unceasing, like water flowing through the gaps in his fingers. "Nevertheless, you gave me this responsibility," he said, finishing the Hokage's earlier sentence. "We're wasting time we don't have. Let me carry it out. I will give you his head, like I did Gari's."
The Sandaime looked at him, steadily, for a long moment, his deep craggy face unreadable. "Very well. I will grant you whatever resources you require. A team, perhaps?"
"It'd be good to have another tracker," Tenzou interrupted, speaking quickly. His face was still bright red. "And of course we need to restock our supplies, I only managed to grab the bare minimum from the outpost before leaving for Konoha," he barreled on, rattling off the long list of supplies he required.
You don't have to solve all the problems, save the entire world all by yourself.
Kakashi was never more grateful for the mask that he wore than at that moment, as he turned his face away to meet the Hokage's amused eyes.
"I'll send word to Inuzuka-dono," the Hokage said, once Tenzou had finally run out of steam and he began to realize that Kakashi had yet to object to his participation. "I'm sure she would be more than happy to contribute to your efforts."
"Tell her to move quickly." Kakashi looked up at the clock on the wall, the second hand ticking steadily. "I want to be out in the field by the end of the hour."
"Yes, of course-"
The Hokage was interrupted again as there came a knock on the official double doors that led into the office. He looked briefly irritated, brow deeply furrowed, as he raised a hand in a swift gesture, the doors swinging open of their own accord.
Kakashi watched the Hokage's face still and fall blank as the doors revealed one small, slender figure, clad not in the usual silk kimono, but in jounin blues and a worn flak vest. Her hair was neatly pinned back with silver combs shaped like fans.
"My apologies, Hokage-sama," Uchiha Mikoto said, and bowed politely. Behind her slight shoulders hovered two ANBU guards, somehow conveying deep embarrassment behind impassive porcelain masks. "But I thought I would offer my assistance as well."
For a long moment, no one spoke.
"You understand the risks," Kakashi said at last, breaking the silence. It wasn't a question.
Mikoto lifted her head and her eyes flickered red for a brief moment; Kakashi caught three full swirling tomoe before they faded into black.
"I am owed," she said, simply.
They began with the empty, abandoned sanitation facility, its borders cordoned off by a string of red seal tags marking it as a scene under official investigation.
Kakashi lifted the barrier up with a glowing blue hand and gestured forward. Mikoto stepped under gracefully, hardly having to duck her head. Inuzuka Rinko followed, baring a single canine in silent acknowledgement as she passed by Kakashi, her massive and heavily scarred bloodhound hard on her heels.
Tenzou rounded them out, trading his usual ANBU uniform for blues and a flak vest that still looked stiff, not yet broken in by long, miserable missions in horrible weather. He tugged at the collar of his vest as he ducked under the swinging seal tags, one of them brushing his hair for a fraction of a second.
He hissed, hackles rising in sudden shock.
"The pain is supposed to be a deterrent for the nosy," Kakashi said, smiling underneath his mask. "Sorry," he added, a touch too sincerely.
Tenzou gave him a withering look that cheered Kakashi tremendously but said nothing as he trailed after Rinko and Mikoto.
The facility was on the verge of falling apart, cracks spidering through the walls and the ceilings, held only together by hurried earth jutsu and slapdash seals to maintain the integrity of the building. Mikoto flicked on her flashlight, stepped forward for a closer inspection.
"This isn't from a lack of maintenance," she observed, the Sharingan stark against her pale, illuminated face. "I can see remnants of chakra workings that caused these stress fractures. These look similar to those set off by a triggered explosion."
"Place still reeks of chakra too," Rinko said, bending down as her ninken sniffed deeply at an innocuous pile of rubble on the ground.
The air was still thick with the lingering odor of smoke and dust, the walls streaks with soot, and underneath it all, the overpowering stench of chakra fire. For a brief moment, Kakashi thought back to the trenches he'd grown up in. The war had smelled a little like this.
"I assume you've read the reports," Kakashi said, waiting for Rinko to straighten herself up before they continued down the hallway, heading for the stairwell at the end. "Danzou repurposed this facility for ROOT's use, mainly for training and testing. It has easy access to the sewers, considering its original purpose, and far from notice given its location on the fringes of the Village. The perfect location to secretly re-educate children and mold their minds for his needs."
The door leading to the stairs was propped open with a heavy cinder block, a yellow warning sign plastered above it.
"Yesterday, Danzou attempted to do so, but was stopped by Uchiha Shisui. This is his last known location before he disappeared, just as reinforcement arrived on scene."
Tenzou turned his own flashlight on and aimed it into the dark depths of the stairs, revealing the curling tail of a rat as it scurried away from the sudden brightness.
"Well," Rinko said, her voice suddenly gruff. "I'll take point." She was the first to venture forth with her ninken, Tenzou following, his hands ready to conjure wood at a moment's notice.
Mikoto hung back, shoulders hunched. Her hands were trembling before she clenched them into tight fists.
"You don't have to do this," Kakashi said, quiet.
Mikoto looked up at him, her hard black eyes wet and gleaming with unshed tears. "I may have over-estimated my self control," she said in a low voice.
Realization slowly dawned on Kakashi: Mikoto wasn't afraid, she was furious.
She breathed in deeply, and as she exhaled, her face settled into a cold, empty blankness. "My apologies. I won't let it happen again."
Underneath the underneath, Kakashi gently reminded himself. "We'll find him," he said, and tendrils of his own rage rose up in his chest in reflection. "I promise."
Their mismatched eyes met in perfect understanding.
"Capt- Kakashi-senpai," Tenzou called out from below, his voice echoing oddly off the walls. "I think you'll want to see this."
Underneath the wreckage and the rubble, Kakashi could see how the basement would have served as a laboratory, with rows of glittering white surgical tables and thick coils of cables capable of channeling both chakra and electricity. Sasuke had most likely rested on one of those tables.
Kakashi took an almost perverse pleasure out of seeing the equipment crumpled and dented beyond use. Above, there was an observatory that most likely allowed Danzou to observe the proceedings, shattered fragments of the glass window littering the ground and crunching underneath Kakashi's sandals. Circling the tables was a crumbling remnant of a massive earthen dome, fading away into dust without a chakra construct to feed and sustain it. Few chakra workings survived the death of the originating ninja.
Tenzou stood at a particular table, the only one marked by splatters of blood. Rinko stood by his side, arms crossed over her chest. Her ninken sat by her side, looking expectant.
"We found Sasuke's table," Tenzou said, looking subdued.
"The blood?" Kakashi asked sharply. Beside him, Mikoto's careful non-reaction said more than any flinch or gasp of horror.
"Uchiha Shisui's," Rinko said, shaking her head swiftly.
"Preliminary reports indicated that Shisui was stabbed in the chest while guarding Sasuke," Mikoto said, and Kakashi knew that she was likely referring to a conversation she had with Itachi, who had led the reinforcements. She paused for a moment, then continued, "He was also blinded."
Kakashi came to an abrupt stop. "Blinded?" he demanded. "By Danzou?"
Mikoto shook her head, a fleeting glimmer of uncertainty shadowing her face. "His autopsy is still in progress, but judging by the angle of the cut, the medics think that it was self-inflicted."
"I can heal them," he said, "in exchange for your Sharingan."
From Kabuto, Kakashi knew that Danzou was obsessed with the Sharingan. He craved to possess its power for his own purposes, jealous of the leverage and strength it gave the Uchiha Clan.
Was it possible that Danzou had attempted to harvest Shisui's own eyes and in a desperate attempt, Shisui stopped him with the only weapon that he had?
Kakashi swallowed, hard, suppressing the urge to reach up and press a hand again Obito's aching eye. "I see," he said finally.
"Tanken's scented Shimura Danzou here too," Rinko said, her eyes keen as she watched Kakashi's face carefully. "The trail stops and disappears, but Tanken picked it back up again by the back of the room, by the generators." She jerked a hand over by the rear of the room, where two hulking generators sat by an intricate inlay of pipework. "Looks like there's some kind of exit to a sewage line."
"We have ANBU searching through all the sewers," Tenzou snarled in a tight voice. "And Uchiha Police stationed at nearly every entry point. I don't understand how he still hasn't been caught."
"ROOT," Kakashi said, "hides in the shadows. He likely has double agents planted within the ranks. And doubtless, he's found some other concealed exit point."
Danzou had to be hurting: his cover was blown, the Village was out for his head, and he had just a few resources left. Where would a murdering psychopath with delusions of grandeur and nothing left to lose flee to? And what would he do? A wounded snake backed into the corner was perhaps the most dangerous of all.
"We'll follow his trail. He won't leave the Village, it's too important to him. If he left Konoha, it would just underscore how much legitimacy and power he's lost. Rinko, can Tanken track over water as well?"
"I've been doing this longer than you've been alive, whelp," Rinko said, her voice cool. "Tanken tracks chakra. Unless Danzou's dead or has some serious Sannin-level suppression seals on, he can run all he wants. We'll find him."
"Alright, then." Kakashi nodded briskly. "I have my own map of hidden ROOT safehouses overlaid over the sewer lines." Kabuto had ended up being quite the unexpected resource. "We'll cross-reference it against the trail in the sewers and-"
There was a puff of astral smoke and a sharp pop! as air was rapidly displaced. The smoke cleared to reveal a squat orange frog, clutching its webbed hands. "Oh, thank the Sage, I finally found you, I've been popping all over the place."
Dread pooled in Kakashi's stomach. "Jiraiya?"
The frog shook his head. "Danzou's taken over Uchiha Police Headquarters and holding everyone in there hostage."
The wounded snake, fangs dripping with venom, finally struck.
The Uchiha Police Headquarters lay in the heart of the Uchiha compound, housed in a building that was shared with the main clan hall, clan archives, and the compound infirmary. Hundreds of people passed through the building each day, both Uchiha and not, all Konoha citizens.
Kakashi couldn't even begin to estimate the amount of people trapped behind the massive four walls that enclosed the building: tens of Uchiha officers, civilians, children-
The area was cordoned off with a familiar string of red seal tags, cleared entirely of civilians and watching ninja. ANBU and jounin perched on the rooftops of surrounding homes, positioned to engage when given the signal.
Jiraiya was waiting for him by a statue of Amaterasu, the Hokage standing by his side in what appeared to be his black battle armor.
"Kakashi, Uchiha-san," Jiraiya nodded.
Mikoto nodded back stiffly. "My children?"
"Safe," the Hokage said, gentle. "Itachi is standing guard over Sasuke. I've assigned Beta Squad for their protection. However, I'm afraid Fugaku is…"
Mikoto's white face faltered for a moment, revealing an anguish that struck Kakashi to the core. "I expected as much," she said, her voice faint. "He would have been in his office."
"Somehow, Danzou managed to plant a few agents- well, four to be exact, and had this barrier up and running by the time anyone knew what was going on. It's a-"
"Four Violent Flames Barrier," Kakashi cut in grimly, remembering its use by Orochimaru during the Invasion. It felt especially jarring to see the Hokage on this side, dressed in the same armor that he died in, as if the ghosts of his past were coming alive to haunt him.
Jiraiya stared at him. "How did you…? Oh, never mind," he swore. "What's important is that he managed to lace the building up with explosives and threatens to blow the whole thing up if we even attempt to step near the barrier. He's been communicating through sound jutsu, projecting his was ten minutes ago and not a peep out of him since then."
"It's likely that all the ROOT operatives he has left are stationed inside that building, in order to secure the hostages and force Fugaku-dono's obedience," the Hokage said meditatively.
"I don't understand," Mikoto said, gaze shifting over to look at the shimmering seal barrier. "What does he want? Has he made any demands?"
"No," Jiraiya shook his head. "Just voiced his warnings."
For a long moment, no one spoke.
"I can heal them," he said, "in exchange for your Sharingan."
Kabuto had shown up all the way in Earth Country, demanding his Sharingan. Shisui had blinded himself. Sasuke had been kidnapped.
"It doesn't matter," Kakashi said slowly, distantly, as the pieces began to fall into place. "None of this matters."
Mikoto looked intently at him, her black eyes bleeding into red. "What does that mean?"
"Danzou has nothing left to lose and one thing he wants more than anything in the world. They're not hostages, they're assets. He's going to harvest every Sharingan he can get."
Kakashi felt sick, bile rising up in his throat. He couldn't help but remember Obito's face, half-crushed, as Rin bent over him with gentle, glowing green hands. I'll be quick, I promise it won't hurt a bit, she had whispered.
"We have to get in there. We have to stop him before he murders everyone in the building."
Mikoto looked up at him, the Sharingan alight with a furious red fire, tomoe swirling in a hypnotic pattern.
"You're sure of this?" she asked him, her voice surprisingly calm and steady.
There was a chance that he was wrong. Kakashi desperately hoped that he was wrong.
"Yes," he said, the words like ash and dust on his tongue. "Yes, I'm sure."
Mikoto's gaze seemed to turn inward, the lazy spin of her Sharingan the only movement she made.
"Alright," she whispered, so low that Kakashi was sure she meant it only for herself. She looked up at him at long last, blood red eyes beginning to grow wet with tears.
"I'm so sorry, Kakashi, but I have no choice."
She raised her hand in a single gesture. There was sudden bright flare of chakra and Kakashi knew no more.
The first thing Kakashi noticed was the absence of his forehead protector, the familiar weight over Obito's eye gone. Was he in the hospital again? Sluggishly, he checked his reserves. Surprisingly, he was nearly at full strength.
What had happened-?
"I know how valuable Hatake Kakashi is to you," Mikoto said, conjuring up a rush of memories. The hunt for Danzou, the hostage situation, the tears running down Mikoto's face as she cast a genjutsu on him.
Kakashi felt restraints binding his wrists and his legs tightly, ropes around his chest anchoring him to a hard wooden chair. He kept his eyes carefully closed, intent on preserving the illusion he was still unconscious.
"He's the only living example of a successful Sharingan transplantation in a non-Uchiha." Mikoto's voice was cool, measured, as if this were any ordinary conversation.
"So you think you can bargain one life for hundreds?" Danzou's normally low voice was high and reedy, the voice of a man driven to the breaking point. "He's not that valuable of a resource."
A pause. Kakashi cracked his eyes open, just a touch, and peered at the room from underneath the lashes. Mikoto stood in front of him and slightly to the side, her back to him. Danzou stood across the room, behind what looked like an office desk, holding a knife to a man's bare throat.
Fugaku's bare throat.
This was Fugaku's office. He sat in his desk chair, mouth tightly gagged, his eyes blindfolded, Danzou standing behind him as if he were using Fugaku as a shield against Mikoto's unwavering gaze. Kakashi saw something small and white flutter from the handle of the kunai: a white seal tag, brimming with suppressed power. From across the room, Kakashi recognized the swirling curves of the seals, as familiar to him as the handle of a knife in his hand, the weight of lightning in his palm.
It was a detonator for a chakra bomb, primed to ignite with a spark of chakra.
"I don't care about everyone else," Mikoto said and in that cold, arch tone Kakashi heard Sasuke's own voice, ten years in the future, cursing the name of the Village. "I'll give you him for my husband. You can do as you like with the rest."
"You love him." The disbelief was clear on Danzou's face and Kakashi realized with growing horror that the bandages normally obscuring his eye had been removed, revealing a gaping hole where an eye should be, knotted with old scar tissue and what appeared to be a wriggling mass of seals that preserved the eye socket, preparing it for a new eye to be transplanted. A Sharingan.
"He's my husband. I don't expect you to understand, only consider what I'm offering. Will you agree or not?" Behind her back, Mikoto's tightly fisted hand curled into a V sign that swept downwards.
Understanding snapped into place. Of course. Mikoto had taken him hostage, using him as leverage to gain entrance through the barrier that strength and chakra could not pierce. To gain access to Danzou.
Kakashi desperately took an accounting of his resources. He was bound too tightly, his fingers knotted into impossibility. His hidden knives, his kunai, his summoning scrolls all gone. He had nothing left but-
"I miscalculated," Danzou said, smiling widely, stretching the old scar on his chin and twisting the grotesque scarring of his eye even more. "I didn't expect you to act in this way, Uchiha Mikoto."
Mikoto said nothing, but Kakashi assumed that the expression on her face said enough, judging by Danzou's amused smile.
"Very well," he said. "I think I've come to a decision. I appreciate the thought you've put into this. After all, you've brought me Sharingan no Kakashi and yourself. Three more eyes!" Danzou laughed, a thin high shriek and moved the knife in hand, the sharp edge heading straight for Fugaku's jugular.
At that moment, Mikoto's arm whipped out like quicksilver, the Uchiha combs in her hair falling apart to reveal razor sharp shuriken.
With Obito's eye, Kakashi could track the spinning blades. They spun like lazy snowflakes in the air in exquisite slow motion, past and present and almost-future braided together in one image, heading straight for Danzou.
Kakashi opened his mouth to inhale. Obito's eye tracked the shuriken, predicting the sudden, wet sinking into the exposed flesh of Danzou's throat. Air rushed in, filling up his empty lungs. An arc of blood gushed in the nearly-future, rising up from Fugaku's cut throat, his lifeblood pouring uselessly out of him. A breath out, air rushing outwards, to begin the cycle again. A spark of blue chakra as Danzou ignited the bomb, cursing the Uchiha with his dying breath in the almost-present.
The Mangekyo was quite simple to use, almost even elegant in its bare structure. To activate it, Kakashi simply had to relive the worst two days of his life.
Obito's face half-grinned up at him, blood trickling from the edges where rock met skin and boy became boulder, every detail exquisitely preserved for all eternity by the Sharingan. The weight of Rin's heart in his palm, still beating, the small 'o' of surprise her mouth made as he breathed in her sweet, sweet scent, his fist buried in her chest, his other arm around her shoulders in the only embrace he had ever given her in her short life.
Obito's eye began to cry, weeping ugly tears of blood.
The tomoe began to spin slowly, then picked up speed, quicker and quicker until they merged into a single perfect pinwheel.
Danzou's hand disappeared from the wrist, his fingers, tightly clenched around the handle of the tagged kunai, swallowed up by an empty void. His single eye opened a fraction wider as he began to look down at the bleeding stump of his wrist, the cut perfectly level, as if it had been severed by an invisible sword.
The Sharingan remembered all that had passed and read the lines of the future; with every blink of Obito's eye, Kakashi was given the choice to change the future.
"I-" Danzou said and then Mikoto's spinning shuriken landed with a dull thunk in his throat. He gasped, blood bubbling up in gushing foam as he breathed, one last time.
Slowly, without fanfare, Danzou's dead body slumped to the floor, his blood soaking Fugaku's bound body even as his heart pumped futilely, for a few remaining seconds.
Kakashi looked up at Mikoto, who stood in front of him as still as a statue. A single drop of blood streaked down a pale cheek, in imitation of a tear.
"It's over," she said.
And so it was.
A/N: It ain't over until it's over. One more chapter until this is DONE! (Also, look! A new update! In the same week even! Stay tuned for the happy ending...)