Operation EDOTENSAI

Interlude

Hinata's eyes flew open with a gasp. She sat up, back straight as a rod, her sweaty palms fisting tightly in Kiba's dark sheets. She choked back a sob and hugged her knees.

It was not quite morning; the shuttered window on the right wall let in a weak ray of pale dawn light. She stared at the shadows cast on the floor of Kiba's bedroom and wiped her eyes. A pink head of hair was strewn across the pillow next to her. Sakura slept on.

Her head felt as heavy as a bowling ball; based on the light, she must've slept for only a few hours. She, Naruto, and Neji had arrived around 3 in the morning.

Yesterday, she decided, had been the worst day of her life.

Images from her nightmare floated around in her mind; Hinata whimpered quietly and screwed her eyes shut. A morbid, self-tormenting part of her wondered if one of those cannibalistic… things had eaten Father's body yet.

He was 100% uninfected after all.

Hinata sniffed.

They had known something was wrong; Father worked early in the morning and heard the news as he drank his coffee. He had woken Hinata up, ordering her to wake Hinabi while he got Neji and prepared the car to leave Konoha.

However, when Hanabi awoke, her normally-pale eyes were a pitch black and her skin was flaking off like paper.

Hizashi heard Hinata's scream. He rushed to her room, took one look at his 16 year old daughter's bared teeth and dark eyes, lifted his revolver, and shot her with an accuracy borne from years of special marksman training from his time in the military.

Then, he shot himself.

She and Neji had fled after that. Neji somehow maintained a calm throughout everything that she tried to replicate. While he was comparable to a solid and cool slab of polished marble, she felt like a chipped and fragile china teacup about to fall and shatter.

A click interrupted her thoughts.

Curious, Hinata crawled out of the shared bed; Sakura did not move, curled tightly around her pillow.

She padded to the door to the living room, swinging it open carefully.

Neji was sleeping on the couch, looking completely like his normal self, save for minor cuts on his hands and face. His white jacket was draped over the back of the dining chair, and his hair was straight and neat. She tugged at her tangled hair self-consciously.

Naruto, however, was strewn carelessly on the carpeted floor. He was snoring, seemly unperturbed from the hard ground or lack of nightclothes. For the 5th time that night, Hinata wished for pajamas so she could change out of her black leggings and lavender sweater.

The clicking noise, however, was coming from Sasuke, who was sitting at the dining table, wide awake. Extinguished candles were gathered all over the table, the early morning light rendering them useless. He had Father's revolver in his hand, and was removing the bullets. The golden bullets clicked sharply on the wooden table. Sasuke's own handgun rested on the table, an arm away.

He glanced up at her, then back down to the revolver. He removed the last bullet, closed the cylinder, and turned the gun around in his hand, studying it.

"Y-You're still awake?"

"Hn." Yes.

"Aren't you tired?"

He shifted in his seat, his eyes not leaving Father's gun. "Sakura was keeping watch until an hour ago."

Guarding. Of course. "Oh."

They stood in silence for a minute.

"Ah," Hinata began cautiously, grasping desperately for a topic of conversation, "How do you know Neji?"

"Konoha U." He answered curtly. "He's in my dorm."

"Oh." She replied, a bit at a loss. "You are a sophomore?"

"Freshman." There was another long pause. "You?" He asked a bit grudgingly.

"Freshman."

"Konoha U?"

"Yes."

"Hn." He hummed blandly. Sasuke gathered up the 6 bullets in his palm.

Hinata watched as he loaded them back into the revolver's cylinder. When he finished, Sasuke looked up and scowled lightly.

"Do you need something?" He asked, getting annoyed.

"I-If you're tired, I can take watch." She stammered out quickly, not meeting his eyes. Why did I say that? She thought despairingly. I'm an idiot; I'd be no help. I'd put us all in danger and-

"Do you know how to shoot?" Sasuke said quietly.

"I-I know how to shoot F-Father's gun."

He regarded her a moment longer. "Alright."

A rush of warmth flooded through her, which surprised herself. She smiled. Even though he had not changed facial expressions, it felt like… acceptance. Trust.

She liked this feeling. She could not remember the last time someone had willingly given her this much responsibility. It was different than family.

It was like having friends.

She glanced at Sasuke's face as he stood from the dining table. He glanced back with a blank expression.

…Er, perhaps 'friends' was reaching too far, too soon…

"Wake us if there's trouble." He reminded her. Hinata nodded fiercely.

Sasuke stared at Neji and Naruto for a moment. He looked back at Hinata, looking almost uncomfortable.

"I'll… take your spot." He said gruffly, turning awkwardly and walking to Kiba's bedroom.

Hinata waited until she was sure he was gone, and thought of Sakura waking to the sight of Sasuke snoozing next to her.

She giggled.


"I expect this from Naruto, but not you." Sasuke said, exasperated.

"Hey, I brought like… 7 packs!" Naruto butt in before Neji could retort.

"Moron," Sasuke groaned, "We don't have power. We can't make your damn ramen."

"Well, I also bought these cans of 'Tuna and Chicken in White sauce'-"

"That's cat food, idiot. And you-" Sasuke snarled accusingly at Neji, "-were supposed to make sure he doesn't do shit like this-"

"I don't have to do anything, Uchiha." Neji replied coolly. "Naruto and I went out for the food we wanted. You are welcome to get the breakfast you desire, or you can eat the food we so graciously brought you."

"This isn't travelling food." Sasuke criticized flatly.

"We aren't travelling right now. Hinata, you like caviar, correct?" He held out the small jar of orange caviar as he directed the last bit at Hinata, who squeaked and sank further into the couch.

"Um, w-well, I-I-I…" She struggled as Sasuke glared intensely at her. She blushed, embarrassed, and fell silent. Her head twitched awkwardly in a hybrid nod/shake and she colored a deeper scarlet.

"Good morning!" Sakura half-sang, walking into the living room from Kiba's bedroom. "Wow, what's this? Breakfast?"

"Of a sort." Sasuke muttered as Neji and Hinata politely returned her greeting and Naruto gave her a hug.

"Oh, this is… interesting." Sakura finished lamely, looking at the bizarre assortment on the table. "Naruto, you know we have no power to make ramen, right?"

"Eh, its okay." Naruto shrugged cheerfully, ripping open a packet. "We can eat it raw!"

Everyone winced as Naruto chomped down on the uncooked noodles.

"I'll just have some bread." Sakura said, pointing at the large brown loaf at Neji's side of the table.

"I'll have some too, Neji." Hinata chimed in.

"This is called 'Panettone'." Neji said as he handed them some slices. "It's dessert bread with dried fruit. Do you want the lavender honey, the baked brie and fig spread, or the pear and rosemary butter?"

"The pear butter." Hinata said, as Sasuke and Sakura blinked.

"What?" Even Naruto stopped crunching on noodles to stare at the food.

Neji smiled. "The Hyuuga family enjoys a certain… standard of living."

"…Where did you even get this?" Sakura asked blearily.

"There was a luxury food shop near the convenience store where Naruto got his ramen. After all, this may be our last meal for a while. Sakura, try the honey."

Sakura bit into the loaf with an appreciative hum. "This is delicious." She murmured.

"Tch." Sasuke snorted, picking a slice with distain. "The Uchiha are just as wealthy as the Hyuuga, you know."

"Well, they were." Neji smirked as Sasuke glared, and held out a jar. "Try the brie."


It was around 2 pm when Naruto noticed that something was wrong.

Well, a lot of things were already wrong in Naruto's mind. His only meal had comprised of nothing but raw ramen that morning; his stomach wasn't entirely happy with the abuse and was letting him know. Painfully.

He was also very thirsty. Neji was carrying all the water in his backpack, and wasn't letting Naruto have any unless if he 'absolutely needed it', whatever that meant.

They had been walking for nearly 4 hours at that point; from yesterday, to last-night's adventure, combined with today's walking, Naruto was sure that holes were forming at the bottom of his sneakers.

The group had left Kiba's apartment at an ungodly hour of the morning: 10 AM. Naruto shuffled outside, backpack full of extra clothes and food, a kitchen knife thrust in his belt and an iron-cast pan in his hand. He had wanted a gun so bad, but Sasuke and Neji insisted on keeping theirs, and Naruto had grudgingly agreed that, yes, it would be wiser if Sakura got the extra gun and if Naruto became the hands-on brawler. No-one had asked for Hinata's opinion; she had been silent and nearly invisible during the discussion.

In the beginning, it was… fun. Like, sort-of fun. Naruto and Sakura talked for hours and he couldn't remember the last time he had hung out with so many people – four people! – and they were all great. It was nothing like the nine foster families he had gone through, and nothing like travelling with Jiraya or eating with Iruka, his old tutor from middle school. It wasn't even like hanging with Shikamaru and Choji at Konoha Community College.

Sakura was smart and pretty and nice. If Naruto remembered correctly, she didn't talk to him a lot in school; she didn't really like him at all back then, actually. But she was different now, even though she hit him a lot. Neji was cool and Hinata was really nice but weird and quiet and blushed a lot. Naruto didn't get Hinata, really. Sasuke, of course, was his usual self. That bastard, Mister Icicle-Ass, or "Uchiha", like Neji called him in that sarcastic voice that annoyed Sasuke so much. Naruto loved it.

He loved it all, even though they walked through abandoned streets with pools of dried blood and half-eaten corpses. Even while he literally knocked the brains out of infected zombies. Even when he felt sick to his stomach and even when they saw little children and guts and even when his arms were so tired he didn't think he could handle it any more, he felt free and useful and goddamnit he's doing something.

But the conversation had died out a while ago; Sakura looked limp, her feet dragging under the hot sun. Hinata hadn't spoken a single word in about two and a half hours, and Neji had developed a blank, dead-eye stare. Sasuke was becoming increasingly snappier and surlier, which soon rubbed off on everyone else. There was no question; they were tired and bored.

'Tired' was not a concept Naruto was familiar with; in fact, it was his boundless energy that got him booted out of foster families 2, 3, 5, and 8. They were simply unprepared for a child who was never full, never sleepy, and never having enough fun. It was around the midnight house-flooding incident in Family 3 when the nickname 'Demon-Child' began to stick.

Exhaustion and Boredom, Naruto thought. One was an unknown, but boredom was a common adversary indeed. He reached into his pocket and felt the little, rubbery, unblown balloons he had been saving. Filling one with water and chucking it right at Mr. Chicken-butt-hair would definitely reduce boredom. He opened his mouth, about to ask Neji for a water bottle when, suddenly, he thought of Jiraya, his last and greatest foster parent, the one who whisked him away from Konoha and travelled the world, and a valuable lesson he once gave him:

"AAAGH! BRAT!? WHAT THE HELL WHY DON'T YOU EVER KNOCK- oh, no, dear, its okay, I'm just going to have a quick chat with this brat - uh, I mean my darling foster son- no no no don't put your shirt back on I'll be back in a pip… Brat, you are one hell of a stinker. Yes, I told you she was coming. I don't give a rat's ass if you forgot! The signs were all there! Hell, I literally wrote 'HAVING SEX' on the door! You need to learn to think before you do and learn that there are consequences for actions. Now SCRAM, before the consequence becomes my foot up your ASS and no ramen for a month!"

Naruto smiled and shook his head affectionately at the memory, missing the confused glance Neji sent his way. He wondered what Jiraya was up to now; communication had been sporadic since Naruto returned to Konoha for college.

Maybe he was relaxing on a sunny oasis in Wind Country, or doing more toad research in Mist, or peeking on some hot babes in Cloud! Maybe he was doing all three at the same time!

Mmmm…. Hot babes… Naruto glanced at Sakura and imagined her in a bikini. He snickered. Naruto glanced and Hinata and tried to picture her in a bikini too, but Mind-Hinata blushed so much and looked so flustered that he felt bad and put her back into her normal clothes. Mind-Hinata gave him a small smile and whispered, Shouldn't you be thinking of actions and consequences right now?

Yeah, think of that instead, please! Mind-Sakura growled in her red bikini. If real-me knew about this, the consequence would be my fuckin' fist in your face!

Aah, okay! Sorry, sorry! Naruto thought, clearing the girls out of his head. Okay. Okay, consequences of throwing a water balloon at Bastard's head.

It would probably make him hate Naruto more than he already did, which was a lot… He hated Naruto the most. Well, maybe not. He had that weird rivalry-thing with Neji and never really looked at Hinata, and he and Sakura had that yelling match like 45 minutes ago… but still.

Another reason, Naruto realized, was that it would probably be considered a waste of the bottled water everyone was so carefully conserving. He scowled. If he did that, then everyone, not just Sasuke, would definitely hate him.

"N-Naruto," A quiet voice jarred him out of his thoughts. "Are you alright?"

"Huh?"

"You stopped walking." Hinata murmured, pointing ahead at Sakura and Neji a couple yards ahead, with Sasuke leading the way.

"Oh, yeah. Haha, I did." Naruto chuckled, scratching the back of his head and grinning until his eyes were slits. She blushed in return, and Naruto thought of the previous night and how she had barely spoken or looked at him without blushing for the first few hours they went to find Neji. Deep in his subconscious mind, Naruto knew she was shy, but, for the life of him, couldn't figure out why.

As they walked, Sasuke stared at the city map they had snagged from an abandoned hotel lobby. Neji and Sakura trudged on grimly.

But Naruto stared at Hinata and thought of something not-boring that wouldn't have any bad consequences. He hoped.

"So," He said to Hinata. "That ramen you made last night was sooo good! How'd you do it?"

"I-I just followed the instructions on the packet." She replied, a tad confused.

"Oh. Okay! Well, it was still really good. Hey, Hinata, what other food can you make?" He grinned at her. "I bet they're really good too, eh?"

She smiled. "W-well…"


Meanwhile, in a musty tavern in Stone Country, Jiraya, former Spymaster of the Fire Country Intelligence and Combat Agency under Director Namikaze, renown researcher in batrachology, and author of some best-selling smut, took a sip of his warm sake while he watched the news with a worried frown.

"Trouble in Fire Country!" the headline read as a newscaster spoke commandingly into the camera.

"As recently reported, the city of Konoha has fallen to the terrorist group known as the Akatsuki. Very little is known about the group, although they have been prevalent for nearly 20 years, orchestrating attacks in nearly every nation." Jiraya snorted. Nearly? You have no idea.

"As of right now, we have not been able to contact anyone from Konoha, though we have been in contact with Danzo Shimura, Director of Fire Country's Intelligence and Combat Agency, who has reported that the Daimyo of Fire Country has been killed." The newscaster said, "He stressed that he and his men are making their way to Konoha as we speak…"

The reporter continued, but Jiraiya had stopped listening. Danzo, that old rat, he thought with disgust. What was that dumb Daimyo smoking when he appointed Danzo as the Director of FICA after Minato died?

Speaking of Minato… Jiraiya sighed and thought about the brat, who was hopefully still alive and kicking.

He couldn't wait any longer. Jiraiya stood and slapped a few coins onto the bar. It was time to contact Tsunade.

It was time to return home.


The strangest thing about food, Kakashi mused, was that everyone ate it so slowly.

That woman in the corner, for example, was eating that soup for at least 20 minutes now. She wasn't even half-way done.

He didn't recognize the woman; hell, he didn't recognize most of the people here. They recognized him, though. He could feel the curious glances as people walked by or sat down to eat lunch.

He was, after all, Police Chief Kakashi, former FICA senior agent and, according to Tsunade, the hero of the survivors of Konoha. Whatever that meant.

The only thing that changed for Kakashi was that his precious Icha Icha was confiscated; apparently it was "unsuitable" for the police chief to read a perfectly respectable novel in public.

He frowned behind his mask. Damn Mayor. Damn Akatsuki. He glanced around the ridiculously-large dining room that could seat all 61 of the current survivors on 11 oaken dining tables.

Damn Uchiha.

"Kakashi! There you are!"

Ah. Shizune. "Mm?" Kakashi hummed as Tsunade's assistant marched up to his empty table.

She scowled. "I've been looking for you for an hour in this damn house. We had a meeting a noon, remember?"

"…Mm, yes, there was, wasn't there. Sorry." Kakashi replied, smiling as his eye crinkled pleasantly. There, that should smooth things over.

"Why are you here?" Shizune asked, exasperated.

"Can't you see I'm eating?" He gestured to his spot on the table.

She blinked. "Kakashi, there's nothing in front of you."

He looked down. She was right, embarrassingly. Huh. Was he eating? Had he already eaten or was he about to? Kakashi patted his stomach. He felt sort of full… Perhaps he had eaten? He honestly couldn't remember.

"Well?" Shizune questioned impatiently. "Let's go."

Kakashi stood with a quiet sigh and followed Shizune out the dining room. Occasionally, Shizune greeted survivors with a smile or a quiet 'hello'.

"Genma's squad just returned." Shizune whispered once they were out of earshot.

"Mm."

"20 cans of food and another survivor. A teenage girl outside of Okonomi Station."

"Just 20 cans?"

"They were going to bring more but the girl was… demanding."

"Demanding?"

"That's what Genma said. Anyway, they marked the food supply location; Raido's squad can get it when they leave at 4."

"Hm… That's a good plan, Shizune. Did you make it yourself?"

She nodded proudly.

"Trying to take my job, huh." Kakashi smiled.

"Aah, no, of course not, Kakashi!" She said sheepishly.

Mm... Shizune takes me too seriously. He thought as he followed her to Tsunade's office. Good.

They reached the staircase and walked down, down, down, nearly three flights of stairs to the second basement floor, otherwise known as the Uchiha Bunker. A solid steel door blocked their way and opened with a hiss when Shizune punched in the passcode.

"Ah, that reminds me," Shizune said as they walked through one of the communal sleeping quarters. Kakashi could spot Genma snoozing in a sleeping bag in the corner. "How long is the generator going to last?"

"Fugaku was paranoid." Kakashi replied distantly. "It will last a while, but I'll tell the patrols to start looking for gasoline."

"'Alright, if you say so." Shizune said as she opened the door to Tsunade's office.

It was part meeting room, part surveillance room, and part armory. A grand, rectangular oak table filled the middle of the space, with numerous guns and rifles displayed on the left and right walls; in the back was half-a-dozen surveillance TVs showing images from outside the Manor and its electric fence. Yuuago, one of his best officers, was seated infront of the screens. He nodded in greeting; she waved and returned to work.

"There you are." Tsunade growled, standing menacingly from her seat at the head of the table. The red-headed teenager seated next to her watched him curiously. "Shizune, can you please show Karin around the Manor?"

"Certainly." The girl followed Shizune out of the room and the door closed with a quiet click.

Tsunade fixed him with an intense look, and jerked her head towards Yuuago. Can we trust her?

Kakashi nodded curtly. Yes.

"I've received a disturbing report." She muttered. "Danzo's coming and the Daimyo's dead."

Kakashi stiffened. He hadn't seen Danzo for years, ever since Minato was killed and Kakashi left FICA. There was no point in staying, after all, once Danzo was made the Director. No sense of honor. He worried for a moment about the innocent civilians currently housed in the Manor; if Danzo came, they would probably be cast out into the streets. If Kakashi was a man of emotion, he would've cursed. Instead, he blinked. "We expected this." He reminded her.

"Not this soon." She replied, massaging her temples. "With the Daimyo dead, he's going to assume all control and that's the last thing any of us want."

He thought of the crotchety old man, with his militarism and his condescending stare, and couldn't help but agree. "The survivors will see his arrival as a good luck." Kakashi pointed out.

"We can too, if we plan things right." Tsunade stood and paced around the room. "Danzo can focus on street-fighting the Akatsuki. We can focus on survivors and finding a cure. It'll give your men a break; they can concentrate on training more survivors instead."

Kakashi blinked. "We aren't sending them to Wind Country?"

"I don't know if we can." Tsunade muttered. "No response from Suna. I can only assume the worst."

"Five unknowns approaching Southeast corner." Yuuago barked as she stood and stared intensely at a screen.

Kakashi glided over, his single eye focusing on the tiny figures on the TV. One of them pointed directly at the camera, as another waved wildly, his blond hair bouncing cheerfully in the wind.

Kakashi smiled. "They're here."

- Operation EDOTENSEI – to be continue -


sorry guys, not a new chapter. just updating some grammar and stuff. if you're new to this story, please leave a review and let me know what you think!