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"I'll give you the grand tour, kid," said Anko with a grin. "I was meant to be helping someone else out, but apparently they're busy right now, so I'll have to share you with Ibiki for the time being."
"What are we going to see? Konoha's most dangerous traitors or something?" questioned Sakura, knowing that the village had its dark secrets.
"Haha, no. I think the old man would have my head if I showed a mere Genin that, plus they're held in various prisons," explained Anko. "Here at the Torture and Interrogation department, we do exactly what our name implies, and once we're done with our poor bastards, they go to the Hokage, who decides what to do with them."
"So, you want me to take a look because poisons are an important part of torture, right?"
"I guess you could say that," said Anko, before winking as her voice lowered to a whisper. "Just between me and you, kid, this place is filled with old coots who are just waiting to roll over. It's been awhile since the department's had new blood, and I'm interested to see if you've got what it takes to make the cut."
"I don't really think this kind of stuff is my domain." Sakura gulped as she tried to back away. She did want someone to help her with her poisons, but she wasn't sure if this was quite the alley she wanted to walk down.
"Nobody is born to torture others. Well, unless your name is Morino Ibiki, Pinkie," laughed Anko as she fiddled with a senbon. "Plus, guys will line up for ya if you're willing to get into the kinky stuff."
"I'm just kidding." The former proctor gave the girl a rough pat on the back. "Although that is true. But anyway, give it a shot. At the very least I can show you some of the more practical applications of various different poisons."
"Alright, so, where do we start?" asked Sakura, noting that the headquarters seemed fairly large.
"Well, we'll dip through the various different torture chambers and then come back up to the offices. As you can see here, there's nothing too interesting, but you can check the kick-ass desk I have in my room," said Anko before handing Sakura the senbon needle she was holding. "Here, in case you feel the need to make sure you're not in some kind of hellish Genjutsu or something. I've taken a couple of kids down here over the years, and most of them haven't had the displeasure of seeing anything horrific in their life. You lot are lucky brats; when I was about your age, I saw the Kyuubi rip this place a new asshole."
"Okay?" said Sakura, unsure of what to say. The Special Jounin had a very… overwhelming attitude. That and talking about the Kyuubi still felt awkward since one of her teammates had the demon planted within his gut.
"Follow me, and don't get lost because then you won't have anyone to hold your hair back when you puke," taunted the older kunoichi, though Sakura wasn't sure if it was meant to be some sort of insult since her hair was still short - she still hadn't gotten Naruto back for ruining it a few days after they failed the Chunin Exams. Anko lead her down a stairwell before thumping on the door at the bottom. "This place here was soundproofed by the Fourth Hokage himself, so no one will be able to hear our poor victims scream."
"We're not actually going to be torturing anyone, are we?" Sakura gasped.
"If you want to, I'm sure we could bend the rules, but no… unfortunately, we're not allowed to do anything unless the big, bald boss says so," the Special Jounin explained before opening the door.
Sakura stepped inside after Anko and looked around in awe. They were in the middle of a rather wide corridor which had various different rooms on each side. What caught Sakura's eye, however, was that a large part of each room's walls had been replaced by what looked like a pane of glass, and inside each cell stood the hunched over form of a person.
"You can touch if you'd like," said Anko as she provided a demonstration by whacking the 'glass' pane. "They're made out of solid concrete, but we've got one-way seals on them which allow us to see through, which doesn't work the same when you're on the inside."
Sakura was impressed. She had never really thought that a few seals could be so effective. She had always viewed the art as something that only allowed you to carry items in storage more easily. To think that it had so many other practical applications made her feel a slight amount of jealousy towards Naruto, knowing that he had just started studying the art. Perhaps after she managed to get a decent grasp on poisons she could give it a try too.
"Now, this bastard over here," she jabbed a thumb towards the man held within the cell, "decided it would be a good idea to raid the ANBU Jutsu archive during the invasion."
"Wait, there's an ANBU Jutsu archive?" asked Sakura in surprise. In the ninja world, you never knew who was going to backstab you, so libraries of Jutsu weren't kept - or at least that's what Sakura had always theorised. A few really basic ones were available in Konoha's own library, but they were taught during the academy.
"Yeah, the Nindaime started it up. Every time an ANBU agent learns a new Jutsu, they have to go and document it. As you can imagine, it's mostly a tradition that's been carried on from after the Uchiha massacre," explained Anko. "Don't go thinking you'll get access to that sucker if you go join the ANBU though. You'll get C-ranked stuff, but that's not very useful if you're already an ANBU, and anything beyond is a pain. Only a select few of even the most elite ANBU captains have access to the A-ranked Jutsu, while as far as I can remember, the Hokage is the only one who can touch the S-ranked stuff. For good reason too."
"I guess that makes sense," said Sakura with an accepting nod. "So, what are you going to do to him?"
"You can come along to watch the actual interrogation process if you'd like," invited Anko. "I'm sure Ibiki wouldn't mind, but, yeah, we're trying to figure out what piece of shit he works for. I'm guessing Orochimaru, but the guy's refused to cooperate thus far."
"Orochimaru? He sounds pretty scary, and he even gave Hinata some kind of cursed seal," said Sakura, her voice making it clear that she still felt sorry for the poor girl. Apparently, knowledge of the girl's seal had become public during the invasion, so Sakura knew she wasn't upsetting anyone too much by mentioning it.
"So you know that little Hyuga kid then, eh? Small world, I guess," said Anko as she led Sakura further down the torture chamber. "That's who I mentioned before, the person I was supposed to be teaching. Jiraiya-sama promised me an advance copy of his latest book."
"That pervert?" asked Sakura in surprise. Almost all of her superiors seemed to be perverted, and apparently Anko was no exception.
"'Super pervert', to put it in his own words. But he writes interesting stuff," Anko said with a laugh, before pointing to another cell. "Well, this guy suddenly appeared a month or two ago and was caught snooping around in places he shouldn't have been. Ibiki reckons he's a plant from Oto, but I say it's one of the other hidden villages."
Looking through the see-through section of the wall, Sakura was horrified to see blood and dried vomit littered across the cell.
"Bastard tried biting his own tongue off, but that didn't quite work," said Anko with a sadistic grin. "And the vomit… well, that's my fault to be honest. Sprinkled a little concoction you get when you boil the roots of a certain tree over the guy's food. I'll bet he's been willing to spill everything for the past day. The smell is horrible, but we're going to let him sweat for a little more."
"Why?" asked Sakura. "I mean, I know the guy's not innocent or anything, but if you can get what you want from him, why wouldn't you just take that and be done with it?"
"Well, there are two reasons. The first one, of course, is to have fun," said Anko as though it were an obvious answer. "The second is to test out our different techniques and measure the effectiveness of them."
"Ah, I see. I guess you do need to practice on something," said Sakura, realising that it was like a Jutsu that needed to be perfected. It still sounded a little disturbing, but she felt as though it was easier to stomach now.
"Shit," Anko snapped her fingers suddenly. "I just remembered that I've got something to do real quick."
Sakura raised an eyebrow inquisitively but decided to be polite. "That's alright. Thanks for letting me have a look, this place seems pretty interesting."
"If you've not got anywhere to go, kiddo, we can keep going later on," said Anko. "I'll leave you up in the offices, since Ibiki would murder me if I let you wander about down here."
Sakura still had a few hours to go before she was due to meet up with the rest of her team. And even then, she was sure that she wouldn't be missed all that much if she were to take the rest of the day off. "Sure, I can wait."
"Yeah, sorry about this," Anko ran a hand through her hair as she smiled sheepishly. "I made a promise to a friend of mine that I'd tell them my decision on something, and I just realised I'm an entire afternoon over the deadline."
"It's fine. I can focus on my chakra control or something," said Sakura awkwardly, aware that an office would hardly be the place to practice such a thing. She was proficient enough with it, but the only real exercises she knew involved walking on either bark or water.
"Thanks, kid, you're a lifesaver," Anko said gratefully as she led the Genin up to the offices. She appeared to be mulling over something, but Sakura couldn't quite tell what. With practised ease, the specialised Jounin glided towards the door of her office as the pink-haired girl followed. Opening it, Anko gestured towards her wooden desk and the large oak chair placed behind it. "There you go, kiddo, just sit tight and twiddle your thumbs or something until I get back."
"Okay," said Sakura as she nervously stepped towards it, noticing that the desk was covered with various messy stacks of paper. She sat down.
"Don't mind the crap sprawled everywhere too much. Heh, if you get really bored you could even organise it for me," Anko chuckled before hurriedly looking out the door. "Anyways, I've really got to go, so I'll see you soon, kid."
And with that, the eccentric torture expert disappeared like the wind. The pink-haired Genin stared at the door before turning her attention to the paperwork that cluttered the desk. Considering she could probably learn something in the art of interrogation by having a look at what some of the victims went through, Sakura believed it would be profitable to take a look through the reports. Anko had said that she could organise the stuff, she never said that she couldn't take a peek whilst doing so.
Five minutes passed as Sakura worked at her own pace, sorting the files first by the ranking of the prisoner and then their name. Reading through the contents of the files, she could see that if the criminal was rated higher in the Bingo Book, then they were to undergo 'special treatment,' as it were. While some of these tactics would be a little difficult to stomach at this stage, she couldn't deny that they were effective.
Sakura looked through the various files, her eyes dancing over the words whilst memorising ingredients she would pick up at the Yamanaka flower store, before one caught her eye and she paused midway. The name didn't mean anything to the Genin, but the picture of the Konoha ninja was of a face that was forever etched into her mind.
It was the interrogation report of the Chunin who had accused Naruto of cheating in the exams.
"Do you really think you stand a chance against me, teme?" asked Naruto as he cracked a grin.
"Y'know, dobe, stealing my lines is not going to help you in this spar," said Sasuke with a smirk as he settled into a familiar stance, his red irises signalling that his Sharingan was active.
"The rules of this spar are pretty simple, and even though I know you two won't follow them, I suppose I should do the right thing and repeat them," said Kakashi as he looked up from his book in boredom. "Play nicely and don't do anything that would cripple or permanently damage your opponent."
"Pfft, like the teme could ever do anything like that to me," boasted Naruto as he immediately brought his hands into the hand seal for his Shadow Clone technique.
"I don't care if you have the Kyuubi sealed within you, you're still inferior to the power of an Uchiha elite," Sasuke egged Naruto on with a cocky grin. He had been itching for a fight, a real fight, and though his one with Lee had been enlightening, it hadn't been quite what he'd been looking for. Naruto was on his level; that and there was a certain sense of gratification that the Uchiha could not help but feel whenever he made contact with the obnoxious blond's face.
"Begin," Kakashi sighed as he noticed the two had edged closer towards one another while they were taunting each other. He took a brief moment to turn the page of his book, before vanishing in a puff of smoke as he decided to spectate from afar.
Sasuke immediately launched a kunai at Naruto, who had taken the second or so of time that he had gotten to create an immeasurable - even with the Sharingan active - amount of clones. Thanks to his bloodline, he was able to pinpoint the real one but a nearby clone leapt in front of the blond and took the kunai for him.
"Fuuton: Kaze no Otakebi!" Sasuke suddenly became very aware of the fact that several of the clones were going through hand seals while he had been distracted. Almost instantly, powerful gales of wind sent him flying backwards and it was only through sheer luck that he managed to backflip and land safely.
"C'mon teme, you can do better than that!" a Naruto, he couldn't be bothered to figure out if it was the real one or a clone, taunted.
Accepting the challenge that Naruto had sent his way, Sasuke started going through hand signs of his own, centralling the chakra into his hands. "Raiton: Hekireki!" shouted Sasuke before covering his ears, his soundwave reverberating all around him. The clones closest to where he had been standing burst from existence while the rest of them covered their ears in pain, a few having been quick enough to block their eardrums beforehand and avoid the pain. Bursting forward, Sasuke made quick work of the clones which had been momentarily stunned by his attack.
As expected though, it didn't take long for Naruto to recover and the clones quickly swarmed in on Sasuke although the Uchiha was much more refined in the art of Taijutsu and had little trouble dealing the one necessary hit to dispose of the clones. "I'm going to have to have him work on that," mused Jiraiya from the sidelines.
"It would probably be beneficial," said Kakashi as he peeked over the top of his book from time to time. "Considering how many clones he can produce, if they were all able to last that little bit longer in battle the advantages he could have would be devastating."
"No kidding," said Jiraiya in a chuckle as one of the clones broke through Sasuke's defence and nailed the Uchiha with an uppercut that sent him airborne. "Considering his heritage though, I wouldn't be surprised if I just showed him something simple and he went and made his own style out of it."
"I look forward to seeing what you have in store for him then," said Kakashi as he looked down at a paragraph in his book and giggled pervertedly. Leaning over, Jiraiya looked at what scene the Jounin was looking at.
"Ah, that part brings me back," said Jiraiya with a sigh. "Want me to tell you how I got the inspiration for that scene?" Slapping his book shut, Kakashi turned his full attention towards Jiraiya begging to know what the sage had to tell him. "You see, I was in the hospital after Tsunade had sent me through a wall..."
The sun hung high in the sky at midday, and the male members of Team Eight were walking through the shopping district. They had just parted ways with Kurenai after reporting their successful D-rank to the Hokage. The two boys were looking for a place to eat a quick, cheap lunch before returning to their separate homes.
Akamaru lounged on top of Kiba's head, the dog's faint whimpering meeting the Inuzuka's ears. Kiba frowned and reached up to pat his partner's white fur. "Akamaru must still be upset that Hinata isn't here," he informed the Aburame beside him.
Shino nodded mutely and stated, "I concur. Hinata's absence has been vexing for all of us, albeit her time away has been for less than four days. I hope one of my insects is able to track her down quickly."
"Yeah," Kiba muttered modestly as he scratched the back of his neck, careful to not josel Akamaru too much, "it sure is great that we have your bugs helping us out, Shino. I don't know how long it will take to find Hinata, but I'm sure it would take an eternity without them. So… thanks, pal."
Shino pushed his sunglasses back up his face but didn't stall his pace as he said a quiet, "It is no trouble. We both care dearly about our missing friend and will do whatever it takes to find her." They were nearing Ichiraku Ramen when the young Aburame heir stopped to hold out his hand; one of his insects landed peacefully on his index finger. The boy tilted his head and visibly tensed, "Kiba," he called in earnest, for Kiba was about five steps ahead. "Kiba, my insects have traced Hinata's location."
Those words quickly got Kiba's attention as he rushed back to where Shino stood. "Well, what are we waiting for?" he asked eager to get this show on the road. "Let's go get her!"
"I'm afraid it is not that simple," said Shino. "It seems Hinata is currently located underground in a hidden facility. One which is highly guarded, I might add. If we were to attempt to rescue Hinata at this very moment, I fear that we would not get very far in our quest."
"So, what, we're just meant to sit and wait?" said Kiba in frustration.
"The way I see it, we have two options at our disposal," said Shino as the insect that had brought the news scurried back to the hive in order to recover. "The first is that we ask our fellow Genin for help. In doing so, however, we put their lives at risk. Even though they may agree to come with us, it could be more dangerous, as involving more people has a bigger chance of alerting the enemy of our presence."
"What's the second option then?" asked Kiba.
"That the two of us make a move tonight under the cloak of darkness and, using your sense of smell and my insects, we will be able to avoid anybody and keep clear, masking our presence until we rescue Hinata," explained Shino.
Kiba paused for a second and thought over the suggestions that his teammate had put on the table. As much as he hated to admit it, the second option would likely have the better chance of success. "I'll meet you outside of your place at ten sharp," he said having made his decision before looking down at Akamaru. "Sorry, pal, but I think you'll have to sit this one out. I wouldn't want anything to happen to you."
"That is probably wise," said Shino as he adjusted his glasses. "Considering such a place exists inside of Konoha in secret, it is safe to say that there will be dangers inside that may take our lives."
"For Hinata though, it's worth it," declared Kiba boldly, Akamaru yipping in agreement while Shino merely nodded once in enthusiasm. Or at least as enthusiastically as an Aburame could display.
"You've got to admit that they have stamina," acknowledged Jiraiya as he watched the battle that Naruto and Sasuke put on. The beginning of the bout had been well over an hour earlier and neither of them looked like slowing down at this point. Whether this was a result of them both being ridiculously stubborn or not, he couldn't tell.
"If Sasuke's going to start learning to open the Gates, then he's going to need this kind of stamina," said Kakashi.
Before Jiraiya could give a response, his face snapped over his shoulder as he looked into the trees as if seeing something that wasn't quite there. Kakashi seemed to notice, but before he said anything, the toad sage merely shrugged his shoulders. "Probably just a bird or something," he said nonchalantly.
Even though Kakashi said nothing to upset the Sannin, he knew one thing for certain. That was not how one reacted when they thought they were safe. Looking into the trees, Kakashi couldn't help but wonder just what it was that Jiraiya of all people could be afraid of. Finally concluding that he was merely overthinking things, Kakashi turned his attention back to the spar to see the two boys collide fists with one another.
It seemed as if this fight was only just getting started.
"This place is like a labyrinth," whispered Kiba as he and Shino crept through the dark hallways of the underground maze. At no stage had there been any indication of this place actually looking like something that should be kept on record. There was no reception area and there was very little for the Inuzuka to pick up on in regards to smell. Both of the Genin knew that just by being in this area they were risking their lives.
"Have you picked up Hinata's scent?" asked Shino.
"We're almost there," said Kiba, his enthusiasm growing with every passing moment.
"Wait," said Shino as he placed a hand on Kiba's shoulder, making the Genin freeze in place. "Do you not think that it is a little odd that not once you have picked up on a single scent and my insects have not detected a single life sign?"
Analyzing what was being said, Kiba couldn't help but agree with what Shino was saying. This place was undoubtedly a top secret facility, but to have not a single guard been tracked so far was disturbing in its own right.
"I fear we may have fallen into a trap."
"That you have," came a cold and calculated voice from the shadows. Twisting around on the spot, Kiba let loose two kunai that soared through the darkness as hard as he could only for a cane to appear from the blackened hallway and knock them out of the air.
"Shino, get your hive ready," barked Kiba, afraid that they were going to be ambushed by all sides. His nose was starting to go wild as he began picking up scents all around him, his sense of smell having been tricked from the get go. Responding to these chakras circling them, Shino's insects quickly left the safety of Shino's body and circled around the Aburame protectively.
"It would seem that you have discovered that we have been watching you from the beginning," said Danzo as he stepped out of the shadows, both of the clan heirs recognising the elder. "I must give you credit for finding this place, but had you not been heirs to your respective clans, you would have stepped no further than the hidden door you came through."
"Where's Hinata, you bastard!" shouted Kiba, preparing himself for a fight.
"She is currently undergoing her reconditioning to become a shinobi that may have some use in the future," said Danzo calmly. "With her current state of mind, she is a threat to herself and to the village, and it is my duty to see that she is broken down and built back up again from scratch if need be."
"Like hell!" Kiba roared as his fingernails dug into the palm of his hand.
"Even though I know little about you," said Shino as he shifted into his fighting stance, "I am aware of one person in this village who will have more impact helping Hinata than you ever will."
If Danzo was surprised at this statement he didn't show it as Kiba and Shino burst forward with all the speed they could muster, Shino's insects flying out in front of him to try and drain Danzo of as much chakra as possible. "It has been a while since I have stretched my limbs and fought myself," said the leader of Root as he went through several hand seals despite one of his arms still being in a sling. "For children such as yourself, however, I alone shall suffice."
"I'mma kill you, you old geezer!" shouted Kiba before he began to rotate violently. "Gatsuuga!"
"Fūton: Shinkūdama," said Danzo calmly moments before expelling a large ball of wind from his mouth, both blowing Shino's insects in all directions and causing Kiba's attack to diverge from its original course by a slight margin. By any means, if he had wanted to he could have used a great deal more chakra in the attack, but to kill these children would likely cause more harm than good. With Kiba's attack now veering to Danzo's left, the war veteran had no trouble twisting on the spot and driving his foot into Kiba's rotating form with enough strength to send the Inuzuka into the roof.
With one Genin disposed of, Danzo leaned to the side in order to avoid the kunai that was heading in his direction. Shino tried to attack from the blind side yet the veteran had easily been able to see through the attack. What he couldn't have predicted, however, was the remainder of Shino's hive bursting out from the extended arm in a desperate bid to latch on to Danzo.
'He kept some of his hive inside of him from before so that I wouldn't fear a close-ranged attack,' thought Danzo as he broke down the attack pattern. Despite the surprise, however, Danzo's speed was much greater than Shino could have imagined, and the Aburame heir found himself looking at an after-image of the village elder, the real one having been able to get behind him.
Without a word, Danzo used his unrestrained hand and delivered a vicious punch to Shino's ribs, a definitive crack echoing throughout the hallway as the Genin was blown off his feet and into the wall. All of this happened during the time frame it took Kiba to fall from the roof. His punishment was not over, however, as the moment his body touched the floor, Danzo's foot planted him into the ground with enough force to leave a spiderweb of cracks.
"It seems age hasn't been kind to me," said Danzo, commenting to himself about how his strength had dwindled after all of this time. With Kiba out of action, he turned his attention back to Shino, who was clutching at his side with blood stains on the collar that covered his mouth. "If I were to kill you now, it would be easy for me to pin the blame elsewhere. After all, why would two clan heirs ever want to seek a village elder? Instead, I'll put the two of you to use as I will the Hyuga girl. Having three future clan heads within my grasp would be best for Konoha."
Shino said nothing, but he calmly reached up to the top of his jacket and began to pull at the top button, slowly repeating the process until all of the buttons on his jacket were undone. This, in and of itself, confused Danzo as never before had he witnessed an Aburame actually proceed to take off articles of clothing. Gripping the sides of the jacket, Danzo was able to understand why when Shino opened his jacket up to reveal dozens of exploding tags lining across his shirt.
Danzo's mind began racing with this new information, his one visible eye narrowing slightly. While the seals themselves wouldn't do too much damage in general, it was a sign showing that this child was prepared for the end. That could also mean there was a plan in action if Shino didn't return at a certain time, a note perhaps that his father would find informing him of what had happened. If that hypothetical note was to have coordinates on it, coordinates that were connected to a spot where a small tremor could have been felt, then Danzo would have something to worry about.
"Before you do something rash, allow me to offer you a proposal," said Danzo maintaining his calm demeanour.
"Speak," said Shino.
"Before your futile attacks, you said something, something which I must say intrigued me ever so slightly," said Danzo. "You stated that one person would be able to have more effect changing the Hyuga girl then I would be able to. If this person is able to undo what I have already done to Hinata, then she is free to go, and I will have no future part with her. If the damage can not be erased, however, then the two of you will join her and become reconditioned, as it were. Do you accept my terms?"
Shino's eyebrows tilted inwards slightly as he let go of his coat. This was a huge gamble, but he had faith that everything would turn out alright. Looking over at Kiba who was struggling to find his bearings, he knew that he would make the same decision that he would.
Danzo watched with satisfaction as Shino set about removing the exploding tags from his body and knew that he had just earned himself some very valuable assets. With what he had already put the Hyuga heiress through, there was no way that anything that these two said or did would be able to return her to what she previously was. "We can get this meeting over and done with now, since there's no point delaying the inevitable. Which one of you two would like to attempt to win your teammate back?"
"Neither," Shino stated calmly, causing Danzo's eye to raise the barest of margins.
"Oh, then who would you volunteer if one of her two teammates is unable to change her ways?"
"I know the answer," said Kiba as he pushed himself on to a single knee, blood dribbling down his chin. Lifting his head up, there was a feral calculated look in his eyes as he looked from Danzo to Shino. "We won't be joining ya anytime soon."
"I have not got all night. Inform me of this person, and I shall have them brought here immediately," said Danzo starting to lose his patience. His visible eye sharpened as he saw the twisted grin that sat upon Kiba's features, and the name he spoke caused yet another type of curiosity to be created within him.
Hope you enjoyed.
Fūton: Shinkūdama: Wind release, Vacuum Sphere For those who are interested, we are a group of collaborative writers who combine our efforts to bring you stories such as this one. We're an open group, meaning that anyone can apply to join. Feel free to check out our forums, our Facebook page, and perhaps apply to join the group, via the link on our profile. It's a great opportunity for those who would like to better their own writing abilities and exchange skills of the trade with fellow authors, or to simply be more a part of a writing community.
For those who are interested, we are a group of collaborative writers who combine our efforts to bring you stories such as this one. We're an open group, meaning that anyone can apply to join. Feel free to check out our forums, our Facebook page, and perhaps apply to join the group, via the link on our profile. It's a great opportunity for those who would like to better their own writing abilities and exchange skills of the trade with fellow authors, or to simply be more a part of a writing community.