Couple: Hatake Kakashi/Haruno Sakura
Summary: A year after the fourth Great Ninja War - during which Sakura was lost - Kakashi is sent to a mission about a mysterious woman, a "witch" that brings destruction to the people around her.
Note: Written for the "Adaption; A study at KakaSaku" challenge. The writers were supposed to choose a book of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and adapt its plot to a KakaSaku story. My choice was "The Adventure of The Empty House". This story also feels my prompt "481: A death of a thousand screams" for the 500themes community challenge.
Sakura breathed hard and looked behind her to see if anyone had followed her.
Nothing. No one. Not a sound.
She put her hand on her chest and focused her look in front of her. She couldn't stop now… if she stopped here, he'd find her and then she would be over. There was no chance that she could win against him at this stage… now with her chakra nearly all gone.
The only thing she could do was keep going ahead until she found a place that she could safely rest for some time and then decide what her next move would be.
But a certain memory came into her head again. A memory she'd rather forget altogether.
That incredible, incomprehensible pain…
And like every time she thought of it, remembered it… she lived it again. It was like a curse…
The curse he left her for killing him…
Sakura suddenly felt a horrible pain and screamed.
She had never screamed like that before...
And never before had she ever felt such a stranger inside her life, next to the people she called comrades.
The need to run, to flee was so strong that it actually made the pain she felt lessen because of its intensity. Every bit of her being was screaming at her to run, to get away… to vanish…
Because a new enemy was haunting her now… and this enemy, she knew, would not stop until he made her suffer… until she was nothing but a shell of her former self…
Then.. Only then would he kill her… after he broke her to thousands of little pieces and she didn't even have the strength to scream in despair…
All that for saving Sasuke.
She clenched her fists and drawing strength from sheer determination, she started running again… she ran and ran and ran and ran…
There wasn't a destination in her mind… no place she was aiming to reach.
She just ran away from everything and everyone. The future, the past didn't matter… all that mattered was the present, the now… and now she had to run.
Suddenly she felt herself fall…
No sound came out of her mouth… she didn't want anyone to hear her. The speed of falling was incredible.
The feeling of existing in a void-like-space was indescribable..
It didn't occur in her mind that she was inevitably going to crash…. She was just falling endlessly and she went to a-much-desired sleep.
It had been a year since the war was over.
It had been a year since Sakura had died.
Kakashi was again there, at the memorial stone, mourning the people he had lost. His sensei, Obito, Rin… and now Sakura too.
They had all suffered a lot when they heard that she was dead. Many refused to believe it because they never found her body but the logical conclusion was that no one would be able to survive a fall like that… and her body was somewhere between rocks… eaten by the animals most probably by now.
She had fallen down like a hero, dragging Kabuto with her. They had been fighting alone at the edge of a cliff and in her desperate attempt to defeat the crazy medic nin, Sakura grabbed him and pulled him with her to oblivion.
One of Konoha's greatest enemies in the war was killed thanks to her, and with him dead, all the resurrected people were finally able to rest again, and Sasuke was saved.
Kabuto probably was working with Tobi in exchange for killing Sasuke after the war was over. It was his revenge for Sasuke killing Orochimaru. Kabuto had taken an injured Sasuke and injected a poison in his body that offered a long, painful death as the muscles in the body started being unable to be used… It was a slow death… until the poison reached the heart and made it stop moving as well.
The young Uchiha was saved thanks to Sakura's abilities to provide him with an antidote. That action of hers had infuriated Kabuto.
So team seven, despite getting back its long-lost member was unable to celebrate his return because of the permanent loss of its only female member.
Kakashi admitted that this sacrifice had made him despise Sasuke. If it had been his choice, if he knew that to get Sasuke back, they'd have to lose Sakura, he would have left Sasuke to die. He would have preferred to never get Sasuke back than to lose Sakura.
Even Naruto at the beginning had been uncomfortable near Sasuke. His existence had been connected with her loss and the pain it brought to everyone.
And what made the situation even more difficult was that Sasuke didn't show any sign of guilt or sadness that Sakura was gone. He had apologized to the Hokage for the way he had acted and because he was the only Uchiha left he was accepted back into the village but with his chakra sealed for the next two years but Kakashi – who had seen criminals regret their action sincerely – knew that Sasuke was not really guilty.
Neither proud of his actions on the other hand.
He simply dismissed them as something of the past, something that didn't really matter to him.
As he did with Sakura's sacrifice. He simply dismissed it as something that belonged to the past and nothing could be done about it. This attitude of his infuriated Kakashi. In his mind, as in the minds of many, the loss of Sakura was not equivalent with the importance of the Sharingan heritage.
But to one thing Sasuke was right; what was done, was done. Sakura couldn't come back.
She was lost. Forever.
"….so the mission requires for you to investigate that house that people are saying it's hunted for some months now." Tsunade concluded her summary of the mission she was assigning Kakashi and folded her arms on her chest.
So now he had to play the exorcist? That was new... "Why do they say it's haunted?" he asked the Hokage.
"Because a mysterious woman lives there and they think she is a witch. The house was empty for many years and before that a family died there because of a plague and since then they thought that the house was somehow infected so that woman that manages to survive living in this house must be something not normal to their minds." She explained to the silver-haired man. "It's just their obsession and fear with supernatural theories."
"Are we so bad financially after the war that we have to accept missions like that?" he asked the Hokage. "I mean what am I to do? The woman is probably not a witch. She is not a witch; witches don't exist. I am to go there and play it the exorcist that will assure the people that the woman is not a witch or what? Take the woman and force her to leave the house she occupies?" Kakashi protested as he looked at the file of the mission.
Tsunade sighed and turned her chair to look at the view of the village. "Well… we do need as much money as possible and missions like these are the easiest way to gather money. They are easy but because of the way the villagers think, they consider the goal dangerous so they pay a lot more than what we would ask. Plus they can be accomplished quite quickly and we won't lose people in missions like these so they are convenient to fill when we have them."
Kakashi nodded in understanding. "And why me? I mean couldn't you send someone of a lesser rank? I am sure there are missions that people with my rank can only do and as you know, there aren't many of my caliber still alive."
"I just think your Sharingan eye could be used very well in this mission. You could convince them that you really are unique because of having a red eye. Find a story and use it to make them have complete trust that your word is absolute truth and then "investigate" the house and about the old woman and just reassure them that she is not the devil, take the money and come back here. I am sure this won't take you more than a week."
Kakashi sighed and nodded in understanding. "Is that the only thing I am supposed to do?" he asked.
Tsunade stayed silent for a moment and slowly shook her head. "That is your official mission only Kakashi." She told him in a serious tone. "There is something more you'll do… for me."
The journey to the Land of Rivers wasn't long but it was a tiring one because of the bad weather. River country had a very tropical climate and this time of the year it was nearly constantly raining and because of the rain, many small rivers were created and it was difficult to travel.
For civilians at least.
Kakashi didn't have much of a problem to travel in bad weather, didn't carry much luggage to slow him down and traveled mostly by jumping from one branch to another so the roads that civilians couldn't use were not an issue for him.
But it was a tiring journey.
He finally arrived at that village. It wasn't really a village… It was nearly as big as Konoha and reminded more of a small town than village.
It didn't look like a place that people would have superstitious fears of witches and haunted houses.
Oh well… Easier for me if they really aren't like that. I'll just have time to search about that.
He entered a small shop and tried to look as friendly as possible. "Hello." he said to an old woman that was arranging the selves. "Can I ask you something, ma'am?"
The woman looked at him and slowly came closer. "Yes?" she replied hesitantly.
He felt her uneasiness. "I am looking for the mayor of this place. Do you know where I can find him?"
She nodded slowly. "You go down that road and turn left after the third block. There you'll find a Square with an old building next to it. The old building is where you'll find the mayor." she told him. "Are you a visitor?" she asked him.
Kakashi nodded. "Yes, I've come here for business."
"You should be careful." She warned him in a low voice.
Now… that was weird. What could that woman mean? He tried to smile a bit and look confused and a little alarmed by what she was saying. "Why do you say that?"
"Because visitors don't have good endings here. Not after the war."
"I don't know. No one does. It just happens." She replied and turned her back at him to return to the selves and continue arranging them. "You should go."
This… was weird. Maybe there was something more deep here than just irrational fears born out of superstition.
Kakashi entered the mayor's office. It wasn't particularly impressive. It was a small, adequately lit room with a big bureau in the middle.
The mayor wasn't impressive either. A small man, old and very wrinkled with a tired and suspicious look.
Maybe things were worse than he initially thought.
"Are you the ninja?"
Kakashi nodded and walked closer to the man. "Hatake Kakashi. I am here to help you with that cursed house."
The man shook his head. "No… not the house." he said. "The woman in the house." He got up and walked closer to Kakashi as he brought his pipe closer to his mouth. "She… she is the problem."
Kakashi nodded in understanding, waiting for the old man to say more about this mysterious, "terrifying" woman.
"Since she came here, bad things are happening. She is the devil. She even has the appearance of that." he told Kakashi.
Kakshi cleared his throat to catch the man's attention that had drifted to himself, staring at the door, probably lost in his thoughts. "When you say appearance of the devil?"
The mayor looked at him and sighed. "Well… it's more that it is very extraordinary. The woman has weird colours. Her hair and her eyes. And they are very misleading colours. When you think of them, you think of something happy… cheerful…. But she has only brought sorrows and destruction here. Her presence in the town makes bad things happen here..." he sighed again and crossed his arms over his chest as he looked at Kakashi in the eyes. "You have to make her go… I am not sure if she is a witch or a demon or anything supernatural but I know that if she goes, whatever causes all the destructions and killings here, will go with her."
Kakashi didn't say anything for a moment and just studied the older man. He didn't seem like someone who believed everything people said, or someone that believed in extreme greater forces and superstitions…. "Can you describe her?" he requested from the mayor, fascinated a little with the idea of a woman with colours so bright and cheerful that brings the total opposite of what her colours suggest.
The mayor nodded. "I am sure you won't mistake her for anyone else. I doubt there is anyone else in the world with colours like hers. Pink and green."
Kakashi froze at that.
"Pink hair and green eyes to be exact. Such a beautiful and exotic combination…"
Kakashi took a big breath, not allowing himself to think more about that person, not allowing himself to imagine that woman. "Before the village ostracized her, did she come into contact with anyone?"
The mayor didn't reply immediately. "In a way." he said after a moment. "She first appeared when she brought back two children from the forests, that were lost for a couple of days. One of the kids was dying from a disease, one that the medical personnel of the area couldn't cure… but the kid was miraculously cured when it returned from the forest with the woman. She didn't say much, just gave some medical instructions to the head medic of the health centre and left."
Kakashi nodded. "What happened that made all of you hate her so much? She helped the child, right?"
The mayor nodded. "Yes… at the beginning everyone thought of her as a good fairy-like godmother that would help the sick… but then things started happening. At first they were thought just bad luck for some but after a couple of months, they were happening so often that people started being afraid. She hadn't appeared for many months since the first week that she visited the child… but one of the hunters saw her at the woods one day and realized that she was living in that house."
"The one that was considered haunted?"
"Well… then it was just the "house of the plague" because the whole family that lived there died during the plague but slowly people started to believe that all the bad things that were happening were because of her living in that house and annoying the dead family…. So the house started being called the "haunted, empty house".
"When you say destructions and killings, what do you mean? Murders?"
The mayor shook his head. "Not exactly. There have been some disappearances of hunters in the forest but that happened before she came… the problem is that our crops are somehow poisoned by something and the animals of the area have either somehow leaved the places they leaved or they all died suddenly… it's like nature around us is trying to show us that it is dying." He explained. "It is very serious situation."
"I understand." Kakashi said in understanding.
"How are we going to survive if we can't grow or hunt?"
The two men didn't speak for a couple of minutes, both lost in their thoughts. "I need to find an inn to stay." Kakashi said to the mayor breaking the silence. "And after that, I want to go see that house and its occupient."
A woman with pink hair and green eyes.
Kakashi had only met one person with these characteristics. Sakura.
Yet, he couldn't stop imagining that woman as Sakura.
She was also connected with medical abilities… like Sakura. She saved that boy from that disease no one else of the medics here could. That sounded like something Sakura, a medical prodigy, would do.
Kakashi sighed in frustration and entered the inn the mayor suggested to him. It was a small, wooden more like a house building, instead of an inn.
"Hello, sir! Welcome to Granny's! What can I do for you?" a young woman, not older than twenty years old, greeted him smiling.
Kakashi walked closer to her and handed her some money. "A room."
The girl nodded, taken a little aback by the ninja's authorative presence. "For how long?" she questioned in a low voice.
"I don't know." he replied. "Certainly a week."
The girl nodded and took out of a drawer a large book. "Could you please sign here, sir?"
Kakashi wordlessly did so and took the key from the girl's hands. "Do you serve food any time of the day?"
"Breakfast and supper, sir. The breakfast is served until 11 and the supper starts being served from 7 till midnight." She informed him in a professional voice, lacking all the warmth and friendliness she had when he first entered.
Kakashi nodded and headed towards his room. He went in, throwing his bag on the floor and exhaled angrily. Why did he act that way with the girl? His aim was to be liked here, to make sure no one would question his words.
This whole behavior was so unlike him. He was a smooth talker… not an angry, dislikable old man that made women feel suspicious about and imagine all their crazy scenarios about who he really was.
Maybe a bit of the second part was true with some of his past encounters with some women but never in a bad way. It was always mysterious in an attractive, sexy way.
He sat on the bed and ran a hand through his hair. He had to go see that woman. Make her have a face, her own face and not Sakura's.
Because she wasn't Sakura. Sakura was dead. Sakura didn't bring misfortune around her, neither was she a person hated by others.
Sakura was dead. A year now. He had accepted that, after mourning for her loss, having many awkward monologues with the memorial stone and the various names that were on it (including Sakura's) and after being so cruel to Sasuke for living while she was dead, for that bastard being so insensitive about her loss, her saving his life.
He had accepted it. He had convinced himself that he was fine with the fact that she was dead, not happy but fine.
It was like he was experiencing the same weird pain he felt when he saw her fighting and then pulling Kabuto with her into oblivion from afar.
He didn't understand why he was so affected by Sakura's loss. She wasn't like his favourite student. They didn't share something very personal between them. He did like her and was proud of being her teacher but he knew that she was what she was thanks to Tsunade, not him.
They really never shared much. All the memories he actually had about her, always involved more people. They hardly ever had a private conversation just the two of them.
The only private thing he could remember was that look she gave him when she pulled Kabuto and fell. It was a look he couldn't completely understand, a look he never told anyone about.
It was like because she looked at him, she decided to pull Kabuto with her, like his presence there had given her the reason, the power? The will? Had given her something to do what she did.
He didn't understand it. He was there. She could have lasted a couple of minutes more, wait until he reached them and let him help her defeat Kabuto together.
But she didn't it.
He sighed again and lay down on the bed, suddenly feeling exhausted and wanting only to sleep for a couple of hours.
He shouldn't be that hurt by her death, even if he had witnessed it. He had witnessed many deaths since he was a child. More violent and "unfair" death's than hers.
He didn't love her. He didn't know her enough to love her.
He'd never learn her enough to love her and that was hurt perhaps. The fact that like with his father and Obito, he missed all the things they could have lived but never did.
This mission was going to be more difficult for him than he imagined. What did that woman have to have these colours? She could have the opposite, green hair and pink eyes. Or more common colours like brown hair and brown eyes. Or if she really wanted to be different on the outside that much, she could have blue hair and green eyes… or purple…
… there were so many colours to chose from. Why did she have to be like that?
He had to see her. Soon.
Kakashi walked quickly down the stairs and saw the girl that had served him earlier watch him with curiosity. He should apologize… he had been rude to her and that was not convenient when you were supposed to be the ultra-super, super-magnificent and totally fabulous, all time redeemer that would bring an end to a series of unfortunate and unlucky events.
He was the one that would "defeat" bad luck and the "witch" that brought to the village.
Heroes are the type of people that everyone likes. They are awfully good looking and ridiculously charming so no female – or male in some instances – can resist them. They always have people by their side!
Well… that is usually the case in tales and romantic novels but still… being liked was good.
Kakashi put on a moderately friendly smile and walked casually to the girl. She was young… around 18 probably. The silver-haired male examined her more closely this time. She didn't seem to be something special. Just an ordinary girl that was either working to survive or support her family or was a member of the family that ran this hotel.
She was pretty as well. Not anything outstanding… but certainly a pleasing sight with her nice light brown curls and brown-greenish eyes. Her nose was cute too. A small one… making her seem like one of these doll that some women collected and –for a reason he was unaware of – cost so much while they usage was nothing more than just to own something nice.
She was exactly what he needed. A girl that certainly knew gossip!
A girl that could talk to him about the "witch" and the weird situations that followed her steps.
"Hi," he said keeping his smile - hidden under his mask but still kind of visible – on.
The girl eyed him for a moment and in a distant, professional voice replied. "How can I help you, sir?"
He leaned slightly closer to her, "I wanted to apologize for my behavior earlier." The girl looked up at him and her expression changed to one a bit more friendly. "Please forgive my rudeness to you earlier but I had a very long and tiring journey and I am here for some very important business and… I just snapped at you although I had no right to do that." He apologized at her.
The girl nodded and offered him a warm smile. 'It's all right sir. I understand."
She was a naïve girl. Trusting… Too trusting perhaps.
But she was also a civilian living in a very small community. She had never been in great danger, never really went through much great danger… even during the war… this place was probably one of the places that weren't really involved in the battles apart from sending food and money.
The people here never saw a real battle.
It was all for the best perhaps. That way it could be easier for them to trust Kakashi.
"I am glad you do." He told her. The man went a step back and looked at the door and then at the girl like he was thinking of something. "Say… Can I ask you a small favour?"
Her eyes slightly blinked in surprise… and suspicion? Maybe she wasn't as naïve as he had thought… "Yes, sir?"
"As I told you I am new here. I came for business. But as I was walking around yesterday in the city, I heard something really strange." He paused for a moment, watching the girl who narrowed her eyes slightly, probably guessing what he was going to ask her, what strange talk he was referring to. "I heard that there is a very weird woman living around this area. Is that true?"
The girl nodded slowly.
"Could you tell me what you know of her?"
She opened her mouth but no sound came out of it. She took a big breath and hesitatingly tried to answer again. "I don't know much." She answered and looked away from him.
"You certainly know rumours." he pressed her. "This is a small community. I am sure that nothing really can escape being found out. Especially not something like a… witch in the woods. I am sure you have been warned about her."
"Well…." She started hesitatingly but didn't finish her sentence. Instead she tightly closed her mouth and looked at the clock.
"You certainly can tell me something. No matter how uncertain it may be."
She looked at the clock again. "I am sorry sir. I must go… I just remembered something very important and I can't stay…" she replied and was read to start walking away.
Kakashi caught her hand and pulled her to him. "Please." he told her in a low voice. "I need to know…. "
She looked at the door and then at Kakashi. "Well… they are all rumours and everything I'll say comes from what I heard people discussing…"
Kakashi walked quickly outside of the inn and put his hands inside his pockets. Everything the girl said was pretty much what the mayor said.
Just a bit more exaggerated.
He decided that there was probably nothing anyone could say to him in the village that could make a difference to his search so he had to go to the witch with the information he had at hand.
He didn't like it; he felt that he was unprepared to face something – someone? – that was going to be very unpleasant and not knowing enough put him at a great disadvantage. It made him feel vulnerable.
All mighty Hatake Kakashi, a legendary ninja that had survived two Great Ninja wars, did not like feeling vulnerable. It just didn't suit him.
Suddenly he heard a scream. A woman screaming frantically.
He turned around trying to find from where that noise was coming from and started running towards that destination. He didn't have to run much. Just after he turned, he saw a group of people gathered around something. No one was speaking.
The only sound that was heard was that of a woman – probably in the middle of the group – crying desperately… like there was nothing else she could do but cry and scream.
He saw the mayor walk quickly towards the group from another direction. His face betrayed his anxiety about what happened… something terrible probably.
He reached the group and saw a middle –aged-woman crying while holding a young man in her arms. The man was covered in blood and his chest seemed to have been slit open.
The man was dead.
He looked at the people around him. No one was talking or moving. They just stared at the woman who was crying desperately.
No one even tried to comfort her.
Kakashi looked at the mayor who watched the two figures of the ground with a thoughtful and a bit of sorrowful way. Then the mayor looked up and his eyes locked with Kakashi's one visible eye. The old man slowly went a couple of steps back, isolating himself of the group.
Kakashi followed him. "What happened?"
"They found him at the entrance of the forest." He explained to the ninja. "She brought him. They saw her leave the body and ran back into the woods." He added after a moment. "You have to do something. ANYTHING." he whispered to Kakashi. "Anything to make these things stop."
Kakashi didn't answer the man and just turned and looked at the people gathered. "What do you do with dead bodies?"
The mayor looked at him confused. "Bury them." he said in a light voice. "What else is there to do?"
Kakashi nodded. "I am going to go to the wood now. Right this moment and see that woman. But when I come back, I want to examine the body, try to see what killed him." he told the man in an authorative voice.
The mayor didn't answer. Kakashi turned to look at him. "Can you do that, mayor?"
"We bury the bodies a day after they die… Until then, they are kept at a certain place. If you come before tomorrow, that time, you can take a look at the body. If you are late, I'm not sure I can keep them from not burying him." he replied.
"Whatever happens, make sure that he is not buried." He ordered the man. "Even if I come late." He warned him and took from his belt a small kunai. "If he is buried when I come back and I still need to see the body, then I am just going to make you dig up his grave and take him out for me to do what I have to." he added in a warning –slightly threatening – tone.
The mayor nodded. "I'll do what I can."
Kakashi shook his head. "You'll keep him above the ground… not only what you can." he told the man. "Tell them that the man that is here to save them needs to see the body before it's buried. And that I will dig it up if necessary."
The mayor nodded again. Kakashi jumped onto a room of the nearest house and started heading towards the forest. Towards where he was told the "witch" lived.
The audacious, horrible, "witch" that dared to remind him of Sakura.
And with her action and reputation here, he felt that her mere existence was in a way insulting Sakura's honour. Even though they had nothing to do with each other.