Date: October 17, 2015
Shinji flees from Konoha, but doesn't get too far before met with an ANBU, Hayai. The runaway tries to plead their case, but in the end loses more than their life.
"Whispering Shadows: Silence is Blind"
Land of Fire, Waterfall
The waterfall was the ideal place to live for the average fugitive. Ready access to food, water, shelter. Peace among the beasts and relative isolation form mankind. Still, it's within the Land of Fire. Uchiha Shinji could've kept running and made it much farther by now, but it should come as no surprise; he's thus far proven himself to be a man of his word. Finally, the Uchiha simply departed. When he promised pacifism, he never harmed anyone between himself and freedom. When he left, he did so explaining that he'd tried to use logic with the Hokage, to engineer methods of safeguarding his Sharingan. The youth took every measure he might've.
Shinji can be found seated upon the greenery near the pool, meditating quietly. He still wears his traditional Uchiha garb, as well as a long, dark blue kimono which is simply draped from his shoulders.
With word of the fugitive Shinji having quickly spread throughout Konoha and even outside the borders of the village, there were many tasks that had to be dealt with prior to starting the hunt for the runaway. Each task was more menial than the last and only managed to hinder the efforts of the ANBU that would naturally be the only party involved when it came to hunting the missing-nin. Every day that past after the departure of the former Uchiha member only meant a more trying start to tracking the target.
Surprisingly though as Hayai, lead for the ANBU search in regards to bringing in Shinji, the trail was still as fresh as if the ANBU had left only moments after news spread throughout the village. It seemed as if no attempt was made in covering their tracks, no traps were laid and no ambushes awaited to help Shinji get as far away from Konoha as possible. While it was an odd behavior, Hayai didn't let it distract him from finding his target.
"Uchiha Shinji." A voice would ring out from behind the individual draped in blue. "If you've had enough time to sit here and reflect on what has happened, I say it's time we head back to the village and straighten out all this nonsense about running away." The ANBU would continue to approach, making no effort to cover his arrival nor prepare for an attack if that's what the Uchiha had planned.
Shinji smiles just a touch at the suggestion made. "I'm afraid that's out of the question. Kurome-sama and I discussed my thoughts on doing this well before I actually did, so nothing of it should surprise her," he informs the figure. "She was sympathetic. The true eye of the storm is the Hokage, and he would unfortunatley be much less inclined to handle things reasonably. I even offered to go to my own extremes to safeguard my Sharingan, to no avail. Of course, why should he want a mastered pair to potentially be destroyed when he is desirous of their power?"
Slowly drawing back his eyelids, Shinji is revealed to have pale red irises. The mark of a master, indeed. He looks upon the operative with a calm expression. "The Hokage doesn't let anyone go without at least trying to throw one kunai at their backs. You must be the kunai." After a fleeting pause, he says, "You have my pity, and not because I wield any great power. Snapping my neck would be no challenge at all for you."
Continuing his approach, Hayai would come to a stop only a few yards away. "Yes, the Uchiha Clan Head. I had spoke with her before leaving the village. She wanted to send one of her own with me, but I declined the offer. She did implore to me however that she would much rather see you brought back alive, than dead."
Seeing the sharingan resting in the others eyes caused Hayai to shift slightly in his stance while his eyes peered into the swirls through the slits in his mask. "I would be the kunai, yes, but I could also be the band-aid. Konoha would rather see one of their own returned, than killed. Especially by the hands of their own. Unfortunately though, those are the two options as losing clan secrets cripples the village as a whole. So you can come back or this is as far as your journey goes…Or at least your eyes. You could always leave here blind."
No more than now was Hayai glad his face was to be covered with a mask. He never enjoyed killing and this would be one of his worst jobs…
Once again, Shinji shakes his head. "Still not good enough, I'm afraid," he explains. "Prior to discussing leaving on my own, I offered to arrange a system to safeguard the Sharingan. A Hyuga curse mark which I could instantly trigger through seals created for that purpose. It would've rendered my eyes useless to anyone who wished to steal them. Just as good as leaving me blind." That small smile returns as he lifts his chin to look up at Hayai, "The answer is the same: death. That's all the Hokage wants. Remain in servitude, or death. That's when I began to realize how my people were enslaved, bound up in invisible chains and appeased with some living space."
"How do you feel about what you've been tasked to do?" Shinji remains still, perhaps so as to not provoke any reflex reactions from the ANBU. "Do you have faith that the man you've been sent to capture or kill is truly a danger to the Leaf, given the various approaches he tried in leaving? Do you think he won't be given the worst punishments if he were to return to the village, with you merely echoing their kinder sentiments to lure me back?"
Hayai couldn't help but smile from behind his mask at the irony of the whole situation. The words Shinji shared were ones he himself believed in, it was why he wore shackles with chains upon his wrists within the village. Not invisible ones at that. "I was told I could take your eyes and leave you alive. If you survive is a different story however. Perhaps one worth venturing? Proving your worth even without the Sharingan, growing in strength and coming back to challenge the Hokage from without, since you can't be convinced to come back."
The other questions weren't thought about much. While they may have had sound reasoning…"Those are not my questions to answer. I took up the mark of the ANBU and put on the mask. When I take on this persona I have accepted that I need to do what is told. Skirt the line of right and wrong, black and white."
Shinji sounds slightly depressed as he replies to Hayai's views on his duty. "That's precisely the kind of thinking which drove me away, and we're all expected to embrace it. Duty to the Hokage and the village, all of us, unquestioning. For the Uchiha, it's a responsibility we're born with simply because of our blood. Doesn't that sound less like duty and more like enslavement to you? An enslavement the Hokage is pleased to cooperate with, at that. He rages when he loses control, as he did with my brother, a man I now recognize to be wise. He spent most of his life protecting and serving Konoha, eventually becoming a Master Jinchuuriki and Sage, and for what? The Hokage denied him the rank of Jounin, but promoted a prisoner Takeo himself had saved from a worse fate."
His eyes grow brighter as he looks up at Hayai, their normal, pale red hue taking on a deeper red as the tomoe become more evident. "An entire people enslaved over these. Your 'mercy' is to come to me with an offer to blind me, even after I proposed a method of blinding myself /if/ the Sharingan should be endangered. Everything I have done may have been disloyal to the Hokage, but all of it was loyal to Konohagakure and its safety. Unfortunately, we can't have Daisuke's unhappiness, can we? Is that what your order exists for, to ensure the Hokage's happiness no madder how maddened and nonsensical his judgement becomes?"
"Doesn't sound fair does it? But that's what we signed up for when we decided to become a shinobi. As a villager we could simply go about as we please, but once we joined the academy or put on the forehead protector, we basically gave up our rights as individuals. We're still allowed to have our own thoughts and opinions, make our own actions, but now there are consequences to our choices."
Eyes never wavering from their focus, they caught sight of sudden change of hue within Shinji's sharingan. "And it seems you are prepared to live by your choice and accept your consquences." There'd be a slight scuff beneath Hayai's feet as he shifted again in his stance, one foot slowly moving behind the other while his body twisted slightly. "Death, I don't imagine to be pleasant…"
Shinji slowly shake shis head. "What sounds fair isn't the question, here. What's right and what's wrong is at hand. That means making choices with consequences, yes, but perhaps the consequences are worth suffering for having done the right thing." He looks down at the ground to his side for a moment, clearly a touch saddened, and then back up at Hayai.
As he looks back up, Shinji's entire person changes like water to resemble the late Takeo, someone he'd surely realize. Even the wave and leaf coat replaces his kimono. "Your choice here is as clear as mine was. Release him to live his life, with an easy deception to explain your failure, or stain your hands for an unjust Hokage. Stain your line's blood in the present and for generations to come. How many times will you do it? I couldn't continue to, after the same realization about the Hokage's state." As he speaks, he even sounds like Takeo. "Think on this before you decide to strike him down. His questions were wise and valid. How many Uchiha will suffer as a consequence of the Hokage's control? How many will have to suffer until they are cowed, and what happens when the day arrives that they all see their reality? It will only be magnified by the number of martyrs you're created. Don't hide from consequences behind your mask. Do the right thing, or do the wrong thing. The mask offers no knife's edge to assuage your conscience, just as my status did not do so for me."
The genjutsu ends just as soon as it had been cast. Where Takeo sat, Shinji now sits, the echo of his elder brother having been dismissed. He looks down upon the grass again without actually lowering his head, sorrowful but resilient.
Hayai shook his head, prepared to speak in reply to Shinji's statement, but found himself choked up instead as the image of Shinji faded, replaced by that of Takeo. It was a genjutsu, clearly, one that Hayai had allowed himself to be caught in by focusing on the eyes of the Uchiha. He was panicked at first, worried he had lured himself into a trap he would not be able to get out of and when he finally awoke from this illusion, Shinji would be gone. But as Takeo spoke he knew this wasn't an attempt to escape, but an attempt to pull at his heart strings and see reasoning behind letting him go.
The message the former three tails, former team leader, former friend had to share was one that Hayai couldn't ignore and because of this as the image finally vanished, replaced by that of Shinji once again at the edge of the lake, Hayai stood frozen in place and unable to react. His choices were getting further away from him, making it difficult to proceed. "Shinji…" Clearing his throat. "I don't want to kill you, but I can't let you leave the village either. You have your path and I have mine. If my only option left is to stand here and watch guard over you, rather than kill you, then I will."
"I'm sorry that I had to do that, but my words weren't getting through to you." Shinji calmly explains, "I knew that you were close to Takeo, and I know what my brother believed. It was my thinking that, perhaps, his voice would finally break through the brainwashing of your training and allow you to see good sense."
Shinji continues, with a sigh carried silently upon his breath, "It seems that I failed in that respect, which is to your credit, I suppose. Trickery is my only strength. Take my eyes and I am as defenseless as a lamb, not even able to serve as the strategist I was trained to be."
Looking up at Hayai, Shinji offers a faint smile. "Well, then it sounds as though you'll have to kill me. Obviously, you can't remain here and stand guard over me; that's as good as executing yourself at the same time. There's a third option, though." A pause for thought, and Shinji explains, "You could simply say that I caught your eyes and you were unknowingly within a genjutsu thereafter. Some hours later, you awoke, having lost me but also having been left safely concealed."
Hayai glanced away, beyond Shinji and over toward the waterfall that was collecting in the lake. Mostly doing this to hopefully avoid being caught in another genjutsu, but also because his thoughts were still on Takeo wondering what he would actually do in this situation. "That's as much a possibility as you simply returning to the village. We both win in either choice. I don't kill you and we both return to the village. I don't kill you and you leave the village, while I return as a failure. Or I kill you and I return to the village only to live with the choices I have made." A brief glance would be given over his shoulder before looking back at Shinji. "If I thought your plan would work, I would allow it. This is my first mission since taking up the role of an ANBU again and I'm not sure how trusted I am. You are a high priority target so I wouldn't be surprised if I'm being watched…and even if that wasn't the case and you did get away. You'd live a life of constantly looking over your back and who knows who they'd send next time…Not someone so willingly to listen I'm sure."
Shinji listens patiently to Hayai as he tries to reason with himself, as much as with his target. "The fact that you're willing to listen tells me that, at the core, you believe that you'd be doing the wrong thing by following the Hokage's will in this case. Is your status in ANBU worth more to you than the burden of adding yet another Uchiha murder to the books, when you knew in the moment that it was wrong?" He sighs again. "Quite frankly, one more glance at me and I could leave, but I'm not doing that. Then again, you could still be in the same genjutsu. I might be behind you, behind the waterfall, walking away. They sent you to chase a ghost, but I'm still here and allowing you to do as you please." A pause. "You're not still in the genjutsu, by the way. I simply felt my brother would shake you out of this state of mind."
"It's your first mission? Then I doubt it would be much held against you if you were to fall prey to a genjutsu. Despite Daisuke's personal opinions, I am a specialist in the field who mastered his Sharingan before he even turned fourteen. It would've been remarkably easy for you to get caught within an illusion, and as I promised in my letter, I have no intent to harm even my hunter. I'd simply have hidden you safely and left."
With a mild lift of his shoulders, Shinji explains, "I waited here for you to come. Now, I've given you the best I can in the way of reasons to save me. You choose what to do from here. Let me go, blind me, or kill me. The solution stains your hands and weighs upon your conscience, so choose whichever you think is right. I'd prefer a clean cut across if you choose that second option, please." It seems that, however right or wrong they may be, the Uchiha is loyal to his convictions and to his family. The easy path of giving up on his beliefs simply won't sway him back.
Hayai could only partially believe the Uchiha's 'threats', mostly in part that if what the genjutsuist was saying were true, they would have no problem in simply casting the illusion and escaping without all the grandstanding. Then again, maybe it was a courtesy. One that wasn't doing any favors for Shinji. "No, there's a bit to my past that is more than just this being my 'first mission'. I'm sure if I fail this here, I fail any chance of having a future within Konohagakure. Which is the whole reason why I returned to the village. I may not agree with what the superiors say, but it is not my place. I shall be the mindless sheep they want me to be and in return I shall continue to grow in not only power, but influence until I am in a position of power that is able to make a change that counts. Running away I was actually powerless, but by returning I can some day become Hokage. I'd much rather you be in the village by my side when that happens, then to return years down the road wanting to come back."
Sighing, Hayai would shift a hand to a pouch at his side only to retrieve a kunai that glints in the bits of sunlight that fill the area. "If it is all the same to you then, I'd rather just take your eyes then kill you. Effectively by doing one, I am doing the other, but perhaps it would be easier to live with knowing that despite all the chances I gave you to return to the village, at least this way I gave you a chance to live a new."
"Take my eyes and you effectively take my life. As I said, they fully matured before I even turned fourteen years old. Clearly, I was meant to live with them," Shinji says, "and to die without them. Right now, I'm a bastard and a mongrel. Half Uchiha, half Inuzuka, but at least I have some identity within these eyes. To live without them is no life at all."
Shinji tilts his head back and looks up at the sky, eyes still glowing with three tomoe floating therein. He takes a breath and then exhales. "Do what you're here to do, my ANBU friend. You have my eyes, you have my throat, or you have your mercy. I wonder which choice would make you the good and just Hokage you hope to become? It's an interesting thought I suppose you could ponder, albeit only after you've done the deed."
The target was right there for Hayai to quickly deal with and dispose of if necessary and yet, he found himself hesitating. It was a task he could easily accomplish, made only more difficult by his inability to see beyond right and wrong. A concept he often tries to tell others that are inducted into the order. 'You must do what is asked of you.' Gripping the handle of the kunai tighter, "Sometimes, your hands have to get dirty to do what is right. We're talking about the needs of one person over that of an entire village. The belief that one persons life is more important than many others…" Shaking his head. "I didn't want to kill you or leave you blind. You don't get to put your life on my conscience. I offered you a chance to return and you are throwing your life away instead. That is how you value your life…Your beliefs over your own life. "
Shinji still leaves himself bared for the strike, however Hayai wishes to deliver it. "You're very correct," he says, "in that I do value my beliefs over my own life. I would sooner die knowing I did so freely, in a place of my /own/ choosing, free of the Hokage's chains. It's my gift to my family, given with hopes that they'll one day realize as a whole what's being done to them. At the moment, they're caught up in their own illusion of having happy and safe lives. They don't yet understand that, simply because they were born as who they are, they can never leave on pain of death. That isn't duty or honorable sacrifice. To be killed because of who you were born to be, that is slavery."
Although he finally turns his eyes to look at Hayai, no apparent genjutsu comes of it. "Would you prefer if I did it? That way, you can claim by technicality that your hands are clean. Of course, you'll carry the weight of knowing that they truly aren't, but you seem to believe that a good and just ruler can only be so by his willingness to sometimes accept evil deeds." Shinji glances aside for a fleeting moment, thoughtfully, and then back to Hayai. "Or, perhaps you could break the mold by choosing to do the right thing, and still aspire to become Hokage. A new kind of Hokage. That would be a challenge to make you worthy of the rank, if you could do it. It's your decision, ANBU. You have your targets lined up for you, and every decision is readily at your disposal."
"You didn't have to become a shinobi though and you don't have to stay a shinobi. There is retirement…but your mind seems made up." Slowly, Hayai would approach Shinji with a constant grip on his own kunai. "If you were going to do it, you would have already. I'll do it, it is my duty. If I can't do this now, I won't be able to handle harder situations in the future. This, compared to what's to come…" The knuckles on of his hand that held the kunai were turning white as he brought the blade up high, "I've tried your way before, trust me, it doesn't work. You may have mastered your sharingan before the age of 14, but you haven't mastered life and now…you may never be able to."
The kunai come down, but Shinji isn't there. The first strike seems to cause him to disperse into nothingness, revealing him to stand a few inches back. The second strike does the same. "You have the wrong of it. Could I have elected to not be a shinobi? Yes, but I thought I was serving an honorable village with a wise Hokage at the time." He continues, "Could I have elected to retire? Yes, but I was explicitly told that if I did so, I would never be allowed to leave the walls again on pain of death. To sacrifice walks through the forest, or to smell the breeze upon the plains, or to take in the glory of the mountains? To replace such things with walls? I can't do that."
"Neither can I allow you to harm /yourself/ in the way you were about to," Shinji states. "Konohagakure /does/ need a good man leading it, and I believe it could be you. However, the more you soil your hands for the sake of power, the less pure you will be by the time you take on the role. Right now, you're just living in fear of losing your ANBU status. I want to spare you the burden of carrying the wrong decision."
His eyes open wide, fully baring his Sharingan, as he attempts to hypnotize Eremi once more — this time in a more lasting, if blissful, illusion.
Stabbing down at nothing not once but twice made Hayai smirk briefly from behind his mask, "I really hate Genjutsu." He'd murmur before catching sight of Shinji only inches further than before. "If only it were that simple. I'm well into my adulthood and have lived longer than most shinobi. This won't be the first time I've 'soiled' my hands and it won't be the last. What you view to be wrong, someone else views to be right. As an ANBU I am supposed to skirt the line between the two and simply do as I'm told. Who am I to say what's right and wrong?"
He'd have more to say, but felt himself slipping, losing himself in a false reality. He knew the fully awakened Sharingan was trying to take hold of him, but he has faced it many times before. Focusing away from his thoughts and within himself, a single chakra gate would open forcing a flood of chakra through his system and purging out the genjutsu. It didn't stop at one gate though as two more were quickly released. "I'm sorry, Shinji." Dropping the kunai, only to disappear moments before the tip pierced the ground, reappearing beneath the Uchiha with a swift kick to the jaw that would send Shinji into the air only to find himself being beratted by a series of kicks aimed to blast him back into the ground below.
"So you've soiled your hands before. Here, in the present, it's /you/ are the one to decide what's right and what's wrong. There is no Hokage in this clearing, no village walls, nothing but you and I. There's always another choice, so make the right one! There's always another way, so find it!" Shinji had only one real opportunity to benevolently escape the encounter, as he did not wish to try and subject Hayai to his more painful - but less taxing - techniques. Although he evaded the strikes, his attempt at hypnosis was overcome. The last ditch effort was concluded before Eremi had even landed his blows.
And land, they do. Shinji attempts to once again use trickery to evade the first technique to come from the ANBU, only to fail. By the time of the second, he's on the ground and unconscious. It looks like he could be left and still survive, and certainly survive under medical care, but who's to say where it will go now. No longer can Shinji implore Hayai to do the right thing.
Hayai would land just feet from Shinji, waiting to see how the young Uchiha would react after the combination of strikes that had landed. Seeing no movement except for a slowly rising and falling chest, the ANBU moved over to grasp his kunai before returning back to the unconscious form. "The right choice…I don't know what's right or wrong in this situation. You don't want to be under the thumb of the ruler, and I don't want to lose an opportunity to some day become that ruler where I could make a positive change."
Dropping to one knee a hand would raise to grasp at the cold ceramic mask that covered his face and pull it off, revealing the chiseled features beneath. "I'm taking your eyes back to the village, they will wait for you if you return." Eremi would then attempt to perform the delicate process of removing both eyes, assuming Shinji didn't try to put up another defense. "Being blind you won't die, but if you choose to take your own life…" Plunging the kunai in the ground next to Shinji…
Shinji can do nothing to resist. Hayai skillfully plucks his Sharingan from their sockets, leaving him useless in any respect. Still, he's barely survived it.