Three steps at time, no pause. Sakura ran towards the Hokage's office, trying to keep her heart from bursting out of her chest. Tsunade was halfway out of her office when Sakura arrived. The two looked at each other for barely a moment before Tsunade spoke.
"Explain" was all she said as she took a seat.
Sakura nodded and pulled out the medical report, letting it unroll on top of her desk. "Here," she pointed. "The part that gives the age for the skull and then, here, where it says that the jaw was broken. When Ibiki-sensei and I met with Kanaye today, he told us that Kin's jaw was injured in a fight just before he left the village."
Tsunade frowned. "The age is right. And if what Kanaye said was true, then we would have no record of the injury. The location may be coincidence but still?Ķ" Tsunade put a hand to her head as she sank down in her seat. True, the information was important, but could she risk eliminating a suspect at this point? Could she risk forcing the jounin to look for three suspects when there were clearly only two?
"Spread the word," Tsunade said suddenly. "Tell them to eliminate Kin from the list. We'll concentrate on the other two."
Sakura was a bit confused but sudden movement from the shadow revealed a concealed hunter nin. She hadn't even felt his presence. He quickly disappeared in a plume of smoke before Sakura could even utter a word.
"Two suspects are easier to track then three," Tsunade started. "The information you provided today is going to be really helpful."
Sakura blinked in surprise at the Hokage's words of praise. It was an honor to hear them but something still didn't sit well with Sakura. The Hokage must have seen the look of doubt across her face and stared at her questioningly.
"That's not what you wanted to hear?" Tsunade asked.
Sakura shook her head vigorously. "No, your words are very kind and I am happy that I got to serve Konoha well but?Ķ" She frowned. "Something still isn't right."
"I suspect you won't feel 'right' until we've caught the killer," Tsunade replied.
"No, it's just that?Ķ Kin was so perfect for the killer. Too perfect. I don't know how else to put it. Everything seemed to fit into place with Nozomi and Kin. But now that's he's out of the picture?Ķ I just don't see how it could be anyone else."
"The other two suspects are wanted murderers in several countries."
"But," Sakura said. "The blonde girls?Ķ they all were exactly like Nozomi. The fact that this started in the same town she was murdered in. Everything just?Ķ" Sakura frowned. "Their sensei, is he alive? Could he have?Ķ"
"Funimo-sensei was killed in a mission three years ago," Tsunade said.
Sakura clenched her fists together. "There has to be something else, something we're missing." She looked up at the Hokage. "I need to go talk to Kanaye again."
Tsunade frowned in response. "There's a curfew in place to prevent?Ķ"
"I know but," Sakura interrupted, her anxiety getting the better of her manners. "Please, I just need to get to the Interrogation chambers and I know the way from there."
"I really have no jounin to spare," Tsunade replied.
"I'll take her." The two spun around and saw Shizune standing at the door. "I'll be gone only a minute."
Tsunade looked between Sakura and Shizune before nodding quickly.
Hopefully Hokage was right and the hunter nin would track down the real killer in no time. Some part of her wondered if this last pursuit was just pure selfishness. The mystery had become so important to her, was she just disappointed in finding an unsatisfactory conclusion? Was she desperately trying to keep up the one thing she had been truly good at?
Sakura shook her head free of doubts and concentrated on the facts. She needed to be ready when she saw Kanaye. What else could she ask him? More to the point, would he even be coherent enough to actually answer questions.
Sakura felt truly sorry for him. It was obvious how much he loved his teammate. He sounded devastated when he spoke about when she died. Now she was going to have to tell him that the final member of his cell was dead too.
Kin and I should have hated each other but with her, it just seemed right.
For a moment, Sakura's feet tripped a bit as she remembered that part of Kanaye's story. Well, maybe he wouldn't miss Kin as much as she thought but she still must have felt some kinship with him.
Nozomi was the bridge between us, the one thing we agreed on.
Or maybe not. Sakura's pace slowed a bit. Kanaye had made it clear that the only thing that he and Kin had in common was a love for Nozomi. When she was gone, had things gone bad for the two of them?
Sakura came to a stop and frowned. She was stretching here. Kanaye was locked away in a sanatorium, clearly beyond any feeling he may have had for Kin. Besides, she was pretty sure that the ninja guarded the facility were at least chuunin. More importantly, Yasumi Dokoro was completely enclosed by a stone wall. The only way in she had seen was the underground passage she took from here. And no one just walked around the Interrogation Chambers.
Sakura ran up the last staircase and came into view of Yasumi Dokoro. She barely had a chance to move when two jounin guards descended on her.
"There is a?Ķ" one of them started.
"Curfew in effect. I know. But I need to see a patient."
"No one is allowed in the facility until?Ķ"
The jounin guards turned around, watching the nurse move towards them. Sakura recognized her instantly as the same one who had led her and Ibiki-sensei around this morning.
"Is something wrong?" she asked.
Sakura quickly used the chance to walk past the jounin guards and towards the building. "I need to speak to Kanaye as soon as possible."
The nurse looked at her sadly. "I'm sorry but after this morning, Kanaye has said nothing. The doctor's are afraid that he's completely regressed to his catatonic state."
"Please, I just need to see him."
The nurse looked at her and the jounin guards before nodding. Sakura followed her inside, feeling one of jounin a few steps behind her. The three of them walked into the darkened halls and towards the wing were Kanaye was kept.
"He's probably asleep now. We gave him some sedatives earlier to make sure he got some rest."
The nurse came to a stop in front of Kanaye's door and looked inside the window. "He's asleep. I don't think we can wake him, the sedatives are?Ķ"
Sakura didn't hear the rest of what the nurse said. She was too concentrated on the room. There was Kanaye, sleeping soundly on his bed. Nothing seemed too odd about that. But there was something on the floor that was attracting her attention.
"What's that?" she asked, pointing to the spot on the floor, near his bed.
The nurse looked at her oddly and looked inside. "It looks like dust, maybe a bit of dirt."
"Where did it come from?" Sakura demanded.
"What?" the nurse asked, a little annoyed at the question.
"You made us take off our shoes today," Sakura stated. "The slippers were clean. All the people here are wearing clean slippers. How did dirt get on the floor?"
The nurse looked perplexed by it all but the jounin was looking the window intently. He moved to open the door but somehow, Sakura already knew what he would find.
I was good at genjutsu and it used to amuse her to watch all the illusions I could make.
"A genjutsu," she whispered as he walked inside and quickly retreated feeling the unusual chakra remnants. He quickly brought his hands to Tiger and dispelled the illusion. Suddenly the bed was empty.
Sakura followed him inside and quickly moved towards the bed. "Please help me move it," Sakura told the jounin. He nodded, no longer questioning her logic. The bed scrapped across the floor as they moved it to the side. Before they could see what it was hiding, the nurse let out a startled cry.
Sakura looked over and nodded in satisfaction. There was a large hole under the bed, the wooden beams cut away and the dirt underneath broken and leading to darkness. The jounin let out a curse and quickly performed another jutsu, lighting up the area in the hole.
"The evacuation tunnel," he said when the light reflected on ground no more then twenty feet down. "It'll lead right to the others in the mountain."
"It's not possible," the nurse stated. "How could this have happened? Why didn't you detect this illusion?" she demanded.
The jounin guard frowned. "We don't do bed checks. That's your job."
"We need to get in touch with the Hokage," Sakura said, eyeing the hole. "She needs to know."
The jounin nodded and his footsteps quickly disappeared down the hall. The nurse left too, off to alert the others about the escape. Sakura walked around the room, looking for anything else that might be important.
Having done a general look over, she quickly started taking the room apart. The desk was emptied in a matter of minutes, the dresser soon followed. She was about to attack the closet when she noticed the floor creaked loudly as she entered it. With a frown she knelt down and tapped on it, frowning as she heard the echo.
Sakura pulled out a kunai and slammed it into the floor with all her strength, quickly splintering the wood after a few strikes. She pulled the debris aside and looked into the hiding space. There was a kitchen knife in there and more then likely used to break the wood as she had just done.
There was a medium size spade, probably snagged from some hapless groundskeeper. If the jounin was correct, then Kanaye wouldn't have had to dig that much to reach the tunnel below them.
There were so many questions now, more the Sakura could have imagined her trip here would create. But suddenly they all disappeared as she pulled a scroll from the cache. She slowly unrolled it, finding a map of the surrounding area, Konoha dead in the center. She continued to open it, fearing that she already knew what she would find there.
She bit her lip when she found that she was right. The list of towns. The dates. The names written next to them. Yamada Fumiko from Mizuno. Juri Namaya from Funari. Aya Midori from Bokuma.
Sakura stopped reading when she reached the last name. It should have been obvious. It was such a clear choice for a victim. Her subconscious had been telling her from the beginning through nightmares.
Yamanaka Ino from Konoha.
Sakura dropped the scroll and ran to the door. She needed to find the jounin and tell him. She needed to get all of them, every single last jounin at Ino's door to catch him before he attacked.
But there was no one there, no nurse, no jounin. Only her alone in a hallway, across from a supply closet, with a growing fear in her chest. She had to do something. Anything before her heart exploded.
"HEY!" she screamed. "ANYONE! I NEED HELP! PLEASE!!!"
But the only response was the unhappy sounds of the asylum members being woken up. The screaming started a moment later, an unnerving wailing that only comes from the mad.
Sakura screamed a curse. They would never hear her now. And she couldn't waste time searching for the jounin guards. There was only one option left to her. She ran across and threw open the supply closet, grabbing scrolls, brushes and ink. She quickly scribbled a message as best she could, trying to ignore how hard her hand was shaking.
She almost ran out the door when her eyes caught something. It took her only a moment, but suddenly she had a plan. Grabbing that last thing, she ran out of the closet, still seeing no jounin in the hallway. There was no choice now. She knew what she had to do.
She threw the message on the bed and grabbed the top sheet as she jumped down the hole into darkness.
Tsunade looked up from her desk, removing the headset she was wearing. The sound of jounin reporting in quietly filled the background.
"Shizune," Tsunade said. "I told you not to call me that."
Shizune smiled slightly as she put the tray of tea on the desk. Tsunade frowned slightly, noting the obvious lack of sake but at times like this, tea would do just as well.
"Is there anything?" Shizune asked as she poured.
Tsunade shook her head. "Nothing. The streets are empty, save for a few lawbreakers but they're rounded up in a matter of minutes. I just don't know what more to do."
Shizune frowned, nodding her agreement. She sipped on her tea and thought about what she might say to make Tsunade feel better. But until the killer was caught she doubted any of them would feel at ease.
There was an increase of activity over the headset and Tsunade quickly put the tea cup down as she replaced the headset.
"Repeat that," she ordered.
<Hokage-sama. This is Mitsuko, one of the guards from Yasumi Dokoro. We had a young girl get into the facility.>
"Haruno Sakura," Tsunade said. "I sent her, so please allow her?Ķ"
<She's already been inside. We went to a patient's room?Ķ shit, his name was?Ķ>
"Kanaye," Tsunade replied, not noticing the grip on her cup was tightening.
<Yes, that's it. He's gone. There was a genjutsu in place to hide his disappearance and a hole to the civilian evacuation tunnel in his room.>
The cup in Tsunade's hand suddenly shattered. Shizune jumped in surprise at the motion but said nothing when she saw the look on Tsunade's face. Without another word, she quickly retrieved her own headset.
<I don't know the significance but Haruno-san said to call right away.>
"Where is she?" Tsunade demanded.
<In Kanaye's room?Ķ> A sudden noise wiped out his voice and the connection cut out.
"Mitsuko!" Tsunade yelled, trying to get his attention again. "Report!"
<Something wrong inside. The inmates are out of control.>
Tsunade could barely hear him under the wail in the background. "Mitsuko, get Haruno out of there."
<They're breaking out of their rooms.>
"This is the Hokage-sama. Teams Alpha and Bravo head to Yasumi Dokoro and control the situation. Team Charlie, go to the civilian evacuation exit immediately."
<Alpha leader, roger>
<Bravo leader, roger>
<Charlie leader, roger>
"Mitsuko, can you get to Kanaye's room?" But there was no response. "Mitsuko!" Tsunade stood up and started to pace. It would take the two jounin teams almost ten minutes to get there by traversing the Interrogation chambers.
In the background, Shizune was attempting to reroute the rest of the teams to cover the gaps. Tsunade could hear them, complying quickly and reporting in as they succeeded but there was still nothing from Alpha or Beta.
<This is Charlie team. We are the evacuation tunnels.>
Tsunade came to a halt. "Secure the area. Look for any signs of young man, around twenty years of age. Long brown hair."
<Charlie leader, roger.>
<Hitsu! There's something here!>
Tsunade felt her heart stop. One of the gamma team members had already found something. Please, she thought, please let it be over.
<This is Charlie leader. We have a white haired man moving north.>
<Hitsu! Over here too!>
<Shit! They're everywhere.>
<Dispel! Everyone dispel!>
Tsunade gripped the edge of her table as she heard the echo of the gamma team dispelling the illusions.
<Is there anyone left?>
<This is Charlie leader. We've lost the target. They were all illusions.>
<This is Delta leader, we're tracking several people moving through the north eastern section of town.>
<This is Whiskey team. We've got at least three people moving in our area as well.>
Tsunade slowly paled as she heard each team report in, each stating that they were tracking people, each differing in appearance but disappearing after they were dispelled.
<Alpha team reporting. We've reached Yasumi Dokoro.>
"Find Mitsuko now!" Tsunade ordered.
<He's down. We've got several jounin and civilians injured.>
"Medical nin teams five through seven, report to Yasumi Dokoro," Shizune ordered, listening as conformations came in.
"Search the area. You need to find a young genin, pink hair. Her name is?Ķ"
<I know who to look for, Hokage-sama.>
Tsunade paused for a moment, finally placing the voice of the Alpha team leader.
"Kakashi, get in there and get her out."
<Already halfway there.>
Shizune looked up at Tsunade, watching as the worry etched into her face. It was obvious Tsunade was concentrated on only one thing at the moment, despite the fact that almost all the jounin teams were scrambling after illusionary ghosts. There was only one way to end this quickly.
Without asking Tsunade, Shizune put in the request. "This is the Hokage's office, requesting all Hyuuga family members report here immediately." She heard the affirmatives from several people and noted the Tsunade had nodded in approval.
Scarcely a minute later, a tall imposing figure walked into the room, white eyes locking in on the Hokage as he bowed.
"Hyuuga-san, thank you for coming here so quickly."
"I understand what you need, Hokage. Please allow us to help," Hiashi said firmly.
Tsunade nodded and quickly walked towards the stairs, heading up to the roof of the building, several Hyuuga members in tow. As soon as they reached the top, they quickly arranged themselves in a circle.
The white eyed shinobis' eyes shifted, veins popping out of the sides of their head. Hiashi concentrated, seeing every detail of the area in front of him and around him. He could see the buildings, the faint glow of chakra of jounin as they moved through the town, chasing after the illusions. And those illusions, he noted, while well crafted were simply a small output of chakra, a unique pattern that distinguished them from the real men.
"Nothing," he said, stepping back and allowing his face to slowly return to normal. Around him, each member reported the same. There was no real target. The jounin teams were only tracing illusions.
"None?" Hokage asked. "But then?Ķ where is?Ķ"
<Hokage-sama. I'm in Kanaye's room.>
<She's gone. There's a note here and a map.>
"What does the note say?"
<Kanaye is responsible. His list of victims is on the map scroll. I tried to tell the jounin but everything went crazy. I know I can't stop him so I'll try to delay him. Please hurry.>
Tsunade didn't reply. If she had, her rage would have probably toppled the entire building below them.
"Kakashi," she started. "The name on the scroll. The one for Konoha."
Tsunade could hear the hesitation in his voice as he looked at it.
In any other time, he would have been grateful. But there was only one thought on his mind as the street of Konoha flew underneath him. If anything happened to his precious baby girl?Ķ
The door didn't survive the impact as Inoshi slammed it open. On the couch, his wife jumped up, grabbing a nearby kunai to defend herself before recognizing the men who came barreling through.
"Anata?" she cried, watching as they ran up the stairs.
"Ino!" Inoshi yelled opening the door.
The window was open, a gentle breeze played with the pink curtains. His eyes landed on the bed that was empty.
"INO!" he screamed, while Chomaru tried to hold him back from jumping out the window.
Shikato however, had noticed something else. Quickly, he moved to the closet and threw open the door.
"Inoshi," he said, getting the other man's attention. He turned around, following his friend's gaze.
There in the closet lay his daughter. Her face peacefully asleep though the growing bruise on her head made it obvious she was not asleep by her own choice. Next to her feet was a bed sheet that was clearly not her own and an empty bottle of peroxide.
Back to team seven
Back to the main page