3. Murder

I FINALLY GOT THIS CHAPTER DONE! The middle part caused me absolute pain because I honestly don't know what kind of stuff Sasuke and Yuno would be saying to each other in a casual conversation. I mean, has Yuno ever had a casual conversation even with Yuki (maybe they did, I don't remember)? And since Sasuke isn't a very chatty person in the first place, I was completely stuck.

Moving on...

Do you think that author's notes are annoying? Ah, see if I care. But actually, this is important; I'm talking about why this chapter is the reason the story is rated M. There is going to be detailed descriptions of gore at some point here, but if you don't give a damn about that kind of stuff, then that's cool.

I'm terrible at giving warnings, aren't I?


"Haruno Sakura, correct?"

Yuno bit her lip and looked the chuunin in the eye with a carefully blank expression.


"According to Nara Shikamaru and Akimichi Chouji, you were the last person to have come in contact with Yamanaka Ino before her death." He folded his arms and looked expectantly at Yuno. "Do you have anything to add to that?"

Yuno closed her eyes and took a deep breath before opening them again. "Yes. Ino left my house a bit after 9.30pm."

The scratching of a pen on a clipboard was heard. "Did she act strange? Did she constantly feel that someone was watching her? Was she uncharacteristically upset or frustrated?"

"No, she seemed fine."

"As her friend, do you know anyone who might have kidnapped her or wishes her harm, with any motive at all?"

Yuno's expression didn't change. "Not that I'm aware of."

Kotetsu frowned at his clipboard. "I see. Thank you for your time."

Yesterday, immediately after designating roles to participants of the meeting for the chuunin exams, the Third Hokage told him and Izumo to stay behind. He then assigned them both the B-rank mission of investigating Yamanaka Ino's disappearance, and possibly rescuing her from her kidnappers. He was relieved that he didn't get stuck with some boring job that involved overseeing the exams.

Kotetsu left the Haruno residence and walked around the apartment block Sakura resided in, looking for possible leads. He asked some residents whether they might have been outside after 9.30pm three nights ago, but he only received a negative response. So he went outside the building, though he didn't keep his hopes up. He highly doubted that there would still be evidence of a struggle, torn clothing, locks of hair, blood, anything such a long time after the kidnapping. But he got lucky when he ran into a young woman, who said that she saw a preteen blonde girl walk out of the apartment complex after she left her home (which was in the building next to it) for her late-night job. She also helpfully supplied that she left home at 9.30pm.

After she pointed in the direction she saw Ino head off to, Kotetsu thanked the woman and continued his investigation with renewed vigour. He idly wondered how Izumo was doing on his part of the investigation, and hoped that his friend had more luck than he did.

Sasuke didn't remember accepting Yuno's invitation to go to her house. Actually he was pretty sure that he had refused, only for Yuno to somehow twist his reply into a "Yes". To be honest, he felt pretty uncomfortable about being dragged to her home. He didn't have anything against her; it's just that he didn't want to entertain some delusional and hormonal girl with the idea that he might like her. In fact, why couldn't she just turn around and like Naruto back? That way, he'd have one less unneeded fan girl and that stupid idiot would stop seeing everything he did as some sort of challenge.

"Please sit down, Sasuke-kun," Yuno smiled as she led him to the living room. "I'll go and make some tea for us, okay?"

She then left, and Sasuke looked around the room while he was seated behind the coffee table. Framed photographs lined the faded yellow walls, and most of them contained a grinning or laughing pink-haired girl in them, with the only notable exception being a picture of a young couple dressed formally at what seemed like their wedding.

'Her parents?' Sasuke wondered as he got up to get a better look. He had seen her parents occasionally when they picked her up from the Academy, and he wondered why they weren't home right now.

He quickly lost interest in the photograph, and noticed a notebook left lying open next to a potted bonsai plant, on the stand drawer in front of the pictures.

Entry 34:

Sasuke-kun is coming over to my home. I'm so excited! We can enjoy tea together with this tea set I found in the kitchen. I don't know what he likes eating though, so fruit should be good enough?

It sounded so silly and childish that Sasuke couldn't help but sigh after reading it. He continued on, reading the only other visible entry (it was already opened up anyway- it wouldn't hurt to look, right?).

Entry 33:

Our team trained together just then. Sasuke-kun was stronger than me in our spar today, that's to be expected. So I'm going to train harder so that I can protect him when he needs it.

Sasuke looked at the words with a deadpan expression. 'Thank you, but no thank you. I can take care of myself. Besides, my future requires me to avenge my clan alone.'

I'm worried about Naruto-san though- he's been closer Sasuke-kun lately. He's also been telling him bad things about me behind my back, so I don't trust him.

'Wait, what?' Sasuke reread the last two sentences, but it still made little sense to him. True, his rivalry with Naruto had intensified ever since they returned from the Land of Waves, but… was Yuno jealous over that? Why would she be? And what was the last sentence supposed to mean? Was this written in code?

"Sasuke-kun, the tea is ready now!" Yuno called cheerfully as she emerged with a tray, startling him. She carefully set it down onto the coffee table and poured tea into the two cups. Sasuke quickly sat back down and thanked her quietly before taking his cup and blowing gently onto the surface of the steaming liquid. Yuno didn't touch her cup, however, and immediately got back up after she finished pouring the tea.

"Please wait here- I'll get us something to eat," she said before returning to the kitchen.

Sasuke didn't reply, and slowly set down his cup after deeming it too hot to drink.

"Sasuke-kun," He heard her call from the other room. "Do you want your apple peeled?"

"Doesn't matter," he muttered. Though to be honest, he actually preferred eating it with the skin.

As Sasuke heard the sound of water running from the kitchen, he allowed his mind to drift back to the strange diary entries he saw.

'Why was it even lying open on the table in the first place?' he wondered, glancing at the general direction he knew the notebook was at. If he had something as private as a diary, he would've at least made an effort to keep it hidden. And Yuno didn't seem like the type of person who would leave something like a diary lying around.

'Right?' Sasuke frowned slightly.

Now that he thought about it, he really didn't know that much about Yuno as he assumed he did. At first, he'd only ever thought of her as another fan girl so he didn't think of her as more than that. But even after being on Team 7 for over a month, he had only just realised how difficult to understand she was. Actually, it was easy to tell when she was happy or trying to control her anger, so it wasn't really that her emotions were hard to read. It's just that he could never really tell what she's thinking (with the only exception being when she's acting friendly towards him), because she's always polite and constantly smiling, to the point that it felt fake.

A small bowl of glossy, freshly washed apples was placed on the table in front of him, and he looked up to see Yuno sitting down across him. He watched as she picked one up and took a bite from it, but made no move to do the same until she swallowed her bite and gestured for him to take the other apple.

"Come on! It's rather sweet."

When Sasuke took a bite, he found that she was right- it was bit sweeter than what he would've normally liked, but because it was a fruit, he didn't mind.

"How is it? It's good, isn't it?" Yuno asked eagerly.

"Yeah… it is," Sasuke agreed. Yuno smiled contentedly, and they both continued to eat in silence.

Sasuke was expecting Yuno to strike up a conversation of some sort, so he was mildly surprised when she kept quiet in the more-or-less comfortable silence. He glanced up at her, only to hurriedly avert his eyes when he saw her gazing at him with glazed-over green eyes.

'Can't she at least stare less obviously?'

He decided to finish his apple as quickly as he could without looking suspicious, because her constant staring was making him feel uncomfortable, even if he tried to ignore it. In fact, it looked like she hadn't even touched her apple for a while now.

A tiny blur buzzed by, distracting him from Yuno. The fly circled around his general area before settling down onto the edge of his teacup. Sasuke looked at the annoying insect and swatted at it, which made it leave its perch on the edge of the teacup and circle the general area, only for it to land back where it was before. He reached out a hand to swat the fly again, but the same thing happened again. The fly remained unmoving from its spot on the teacup, completely oblivious to the glare he was giving it.

"Sasuke-kun? What's wrong?"

He stopped glaring at the fly and rather than replying, he responded with "What's a fly doing here?"

Yuno's concerned expression darkened when she noticed the uninvited guest. "Oh, don't worry- I'll get rid of it."

She took off one of her slippers and Sasuke suddenly regretted answering her at all.

"I don't think that's necessary-" he said quickly, not wanting a slipper thrown at a cup which was full of hot tea.

Too late.

Yuno swung the slipper at an incredible speed, knocking it against the teacup and causing it to fly off the coffee table. Instinctively, Sasuke's hand quickly shot out and caught the cup in an awkward grasp. The tea spilled all over his arm warmer, leaving a yellowish stain on the formerly white fabric. He felt the hot liquid soak through to his arm, and he gritted his teeth in discomfort.

"Sasuke-kun! I'm so sorry! Are you alright?" said Yuno in a frantic and worried voice as she tossed her slipper (which now has a black smudge on the sole) aside and rushed over to where he was. She reached out and began tugging at the soaked arm warmer, but when Sasuke realised what she was trying to do, he pulled the whole thing off by himself.

"The bathroom's at the end of the hallway if you want to clean yourself up a bit," Yuno informed as she grabbed the arm warmer from him. "I'll go put this in the laundry first."

With that, she left the room, and he took that as a cue to get up and wash off the tea still dripping from his arm.

As Sasuke walked by one of the closed doors, he suddenly smelt something faint, but unpleasant. He froze mid-step and abruptly turned towards the door, eyeing it with a mix of wariness and revulsion. As faint as it was, he knew that smell; it was the very same stench that choked the atmosphere of the Uchiha compound on the day of the Massacre.

Sasuke continued staring at the door. Dead bodies were behind it.

He shook himself out of his shock, gritted his teeth and gingerly placed a hand on the doorknob. He had no idea why there were dead bodies in Yuno's home, but it didn't matter at the moment. Hell, he wasn't sure if Yuno herself was even aware of the bodies- for all he knew, they might have been left there while the two of them were drinking tea in the living room.

'Maybe that's why her parents weren't present,' Sasuke realised in horror. His heart hammered and he gripped the doorknob tighter. It wasn't any of his business, but if he just walked away now, he knew that this moment would haunt him for the rest of his life. Besides, he's seen dead bodies before. He knew what to expect. He's even chosen to be a ninja, for crying out loud, and that profession involves lots of dead bodies.

He forced his tensed body to move, and twisted the doorknob and pushed.

And immediately regretted it.

The faint smell from before was immediately replaced by a familiar wet, vile and almost sickeningly sweet stench which forced its way into his nose, causing Sasuke let out a choked gasp and slap a hand over his mouth and nose. The stench was so strong that it still seeped into his nostrils even when he stopped breathing. He felt his eyes water as he fought down a wave of nausea.

But what he saw was worse.

The first thing he noticed was the blood. Lots of blood. There was a puddle-sized smear of it right in front of him, leading towards a corpse. It was sprawled out, with its limbs twisted into such odd and unnatural angles that it resembled a red spider. But the worst part of it was the abdominal area, which was brutally ripped open.

When his eyes drifted to the corpse's head, his eyes widened and he felt like his heart stopped.

Pale, mangled hair in a messy ponytail.


'Fuck…' Sasuke thought. The sight of Ino's mutilated corpse was more horrifying than watching his brother murder their mother. Itachi had only stabbed her- he didn't twist and break her limbs, or tear open her stomach.

But Ino's body wasn't the only one present.

There were two other bodies- from what he could tell, the man's head looked as if it was dislodged from his shoulders and accompanied a spray of blood on and around the general area. And the woman- her hair was matted with so much red that it was impossible to even guess her hair colour.

The sight was so disgusting that he couldn't peel his eyes off it. His breathing was also laboured, as he attempted to get enough oxygen to stay conscious, and at the same time breathe in as little of the putrid air as possible. It wasn't surprising that he didn't notice the footsteps approaching him from behind.

"Sasuke-kun… why did you have to find this room?"

The next afternoon…

"Sorry for disturbing you again, Sakura-san, but we need to ask you some more questions regarding Ino's death," Izumo said with an apologetic smile.

Yuno gripped the doorframe and nodded her consent, but otherwise remained silent.

"Well you see, a lady next door claimed that she saw Ino leave your home, but we found no traces of your friend after that," Kotetsu began. "Interestingly, a man from the other side of the street told us that he saw you return home some time before 10pm. Care to explain?"

Yuno's hold on the metal tightened. "Are you sure he wasn't drunk?"

"Well… he did mention that he was helping his drunk friend home-"

"Sakura-san," Izumo said suddenly, interrupting Kotetsu. "Where are your parents? I would like to ask them a few things while you are speaking with Kotetsu, if they don't mind."

Yuno blinked. "Oh. My parents? They're not home; they're on a business trip out of the village."

Izumo looked a bit surprised. "Oh. I see. Then you wouldn't mind if I investigate the house a bit, right?"

Her knuckles were nearly white now. "If it'll help your investigation."

Izumo nodded and walked inside with his hands in his pockets, and began inspecting the living room.

Kotetsu cleared his throat, trying to get her attention. "Okay then. You had the top marks for the academic section of the genin test in your year, right?"

"Yes…" Yuno said, her voice laced with uncertainty.

"Well, that means you're a clever girl then, right?"

Yuno didn't respond- she was glancing back at her living room, which didn't go unnoticed by Kotetsu.

"So you've already got the henge no jutsu down, haven't you?"

He was answered with a cold glare, and suddenly, she lunged at him with a kunai aimed for his stomach. Kotetsu instinctively dodged the blow, but his eyes widened at the unexpected viciousness. He was about to grab her outstretched arm to offset her balance and hold her in place, but Yuno quickly swung her arm down out of his reach, then ducked and bolted downstairs.

"Oi! Wait!" Kotetsu yelled as he chased after her. They ran all the way down to the main entrance of her apartment block and out into the busy afternoon streets, where Sakura slipped into the crowd, making his pursuit much more difficult. Kotetsu reacted to this by leaping up into the rooftops and scanning the view for a head of pink hair.

His eyes thoroughly swept through the sea of people, and he leapt onto the next rooftop once he double-checked that Sakura wasn't in the visible area. He knew that despite being a genin, she wasn't someone he should underestimate. Sure, he could easily beat her in a fight due to his age and experience, but he also knew that she was rather smart and cunning for her age. It wasn't confirmed, but he strongly believed that she had impersonated Ino then left her home in order to provide a cover for herself. It would have actually been a pretty clever move, if only her carelessness and lack of any further foresight hadn't jeopardised it.

It was pretty obvious by now that Ino's disappearance wasn't a kidnapping for being a Yamanaka. But Kotetsu couldn't think of any reason why Sakura would hide, or perhaps even kill Ino.

A flash of strawberry pink caught his eye in the crowd at the fruit market, and he left the rooftop he was on and sped towards it.

'I hope Izumo's found something interesting.'

At first glance, there was nothing particularly eye-catching in the living room- just the typical furniture, framed photographs and a bonsai plant against the wall he was standing next to. Izumo had expected as much; he knew that if he was going to find something, then he was obviously going to search for it.

He pulled open the top drawer of the stand drawer next to him and found it filled with two neat stacks of filled out paper. A quick glance told him that it was most likely the homework from the Academy, so he ignored them. He was about to close the drawer when he paused, and wondered if anything would be hidden underneath the piles of completed homework. He quickly sifted through the first pile, and found a closed notebook at the bottom. He pulled it out, examined the hard blue cover, then flipped it open to a random page.

Entry 34:

Sasuke-kun is coming over to my home. I'm so excited! We can enjoy tea together with this tea set I found in the kitchen. I don't know what he likes eating though, so fruit should be good enough?

Oh great. He just stumbled across a preteen girl's diary. Izumo half-heartedly swept through the pages back to the beginning, and decided to look at the first entry. If it proved itself to be nothing but gossip, boys and angst, then he was going to put the diary back and pretend he never found it.

'Maybe she'll mention Ino at some point. Yep, that's the only reason I'm reading this.'

Entry 1:

This is an empty notebook I found in this house. I don't know why I'm writing this, but everything seems strange. Everyone seems to know Sakura, but I don't know anyone. This man and woman seem to be my parents, but I don't feel comfortable around them. I only know my name, but nothing else seems familiar.

Why does this sound like something an amnesiac wrote? When was this even written? If he was to be honest, Izumo wasn't even sure who wrote it.

A flurry of muffled noises interrupted his questioning thoughts and put him on alert. He clutched the book tightly with one hand and instinctively drew out a kunai from his pouch with his other. He followed the direction he heard the noises at and arrived soundlessly at the hallway, only to find both Kotetsu and Sakura absent and the main door swung wide open. He sprinted outside, glanced around and even peered down the stairs, but they were nowhere to be found. He couldn't even hear them anymore.

'Whatever's going on, I'm pretty Kotetsu would be able to handle it.' He had better things to do anyway, he thought as he warily stepped back into the Haruno residence. He closed the door behind him and slid the kunai back into his pouch, then walked back into the living room to read the diary, where the lighting was better.

He skimmed over the first entry again, but decided that it would be best to continue, since the following entries might make more sense to him.

Entry 2:

We had our Graduation Exams today. Strangely, I seemed to know what to expect, even though at times I felt that the entire thing was a bit odd. Going to school today has been helpful, because I felt that I remembered something- Sasuke-kun's presence seemed to make me feel light-hearted and happy, so I think that he's important to me. I watched him a bit more, and the light feeling persisted. Maybe he was close to my heart before?

Well, that possibly confirmed Sakura as being an amnesiac. How did she get amnesia then? Normally it is caused by a bad concussion, trauma, or even some types of medicine, but…

'Interesting. I'm not quite sure what's going on here, but I'll hand this notebook in to the Hokage.' With that, Izumo closed the blue notebook and slipped it into his left vest pocket and walked into another room, which happened to be the kitchen.

The first thing that caught his eye was the blue and white china tea set sitting atop a wooden tray on the kitchen counter. Upon closer inspection, he realised that the cups still had tea leaves and yellowish stains in them. He looked around a bit longer, but left after discovering that the only food there was just a couple of apples. All he had found in the kitchen was (most likely) just the remains of the afternoon tea Sakura had mentioned in her diary.

The next room he entered turned out to be Sakura's bedroom, judging from all the stuffed animal toys lined up on some shelves. Once again, he didn't find anything, but he did notice something rather unusual: the only places in the room that didn't seem to have a thin layer of dust over them were the floor, bed and wardrobe.

'The more I find, the stranger this seems,' Izumo thought as he walked down the hallway. The shadows around him stretched across the floor and walls, making him wonder if the sun was setting outside. But his focus quickly returned to the room in front of him when he reached it.

A faint odour emanated from the closed door…

Izumo's eyes widened when he recognised the smell. 'No… it can't be!'

He slammed the door open and approached the room while looking around expectantly.

There were bloodstains right in front of the door and also splattered across some parts of the otherwise beige carpet. Yet the rest of the bedroom appeared neat and orderly, with the bed made, all the books in the shelf and the chair next to the bed with a single plumped up cushion sitting on it. Added with the curtains being fully drawn and the strong smell of death, the room felt particularly unsettling.

Izumo covered the lower part of his face with one hand and tried breathing as little as possible. Where are the bodies? It's obvious that they have been rotting in this room for quite a while now. He was down and looking underneath the bed when he heard someone coughing outside of the room.

"Izumo! What the hell happened in there?"

Izumo looked up to see Kotetsu walk in while trying to hide his mouth and nose under the collar of his turtleneck. He watched his friend switch on the lights and quickly assessing the room with furrowed brows before deciding to speak up.

"I just checked under the bed and there are no bodies there. By the way, what happened with Sakura earlier?"

Kotetsu's scowl was visible through his makeshift face-mask. "Long story short, that girl's too clever for a genin."

Izumo sensed the unspoken "I'll tell you more later" and nodded. "I see. Anyway, I think we should check the wardrobe next, since it's one of the other places in here big enough to hide a body."

"Unless you butcher it into several parts," Kotetsu joked half-heartedly as he moved to stand in front of the wardrobe. Its height almost reached the ceiling, and it was the width of three wooden sliding doors. Definitely big enough to hide a body.

"Oh yes, just what we need: Easter egg hunt- Body Parts Edition," Izumo replied sarcastically. He used his free hand and carefully slid open the left door, but found nothing a short rack of dresses directly above two drawers. Suddenly, his wariness piqued and his well-honed instincts were screaming at him that something was not right.

He subconsciously took a step backwards.

"I've got a bad feeling about this…" Izumo said, still keeping his eyes trained on the partially-opened wardrobe. Next to him, Kotetsu raised an eyebrow.

"Really? I guess that means we've might have found it already. Bring it on." Kotetsu went and slid the door further open, half-expecting to find Ino's dead body huddled underneath another rack of clothes.

Something rolled out.

Kotetsu gave a surprised yell and instinctively leapt backwards, with a kunai already drawn by the time his feet touched the ground again. At the same time, Izumo reacted with a quiet "Holy shit…" and his eyes widened when he saw what had landed on the floor next to him.

A detached head.

The detached head of a man, to be more specific. On his tanned face were lifeless blue eyes that were half-closed and dried blood was trailing out from the corners of his mouth, which was set in a weak grimace. Matted, dull pink hair was spread out on the floor underneath the back of the head, and the two chuunins could only wonder if the man was Sakura's father.

"… I was only joking about hunting dead body parts!" Izumo said while staring at the detached head in disbelief.

"We shouldn't be too surprised if we really do find more now," Kotetsu replied grimly after recovering from his initial shock. He regarded the shelf the head had rolled off from with suspicion, before pulling open the exposed drawers and rummaging through them. Meanwhile, Izumo cautiously slid open the middle door.

The bottom half of two bodies were visible from underneath a rack of clothes.

Izumo brushed aside the jackets and cloaks and found that only one of them had a head still attached to their neck. There were also flies surrounding the bodies, making him wonder how long they've been dead for. Neither of the corpses belonged to Ino though- there was the one of the man, and the other one while female, obviously didn't belong to that of a prepubescent girl.

"Nothing else here!" Kotetsu reported after he finished looking through the last drawer, not bothering to hide the relief in his voice. When he noticed Izumo's find, his expression immediately twisted into a disgusted grimace.

"You've got to be kidding me," he muttered as he stared at the corpses. These are her parents, right?

"There's not going to be any chance of Ino being alive now, is there?" Izumo remarked dryly. "I wonder how Hokage-sama will react to this… extra bit of information."

"He'll be surprised, I suppose," Kotetsu said as he closed the left door and slid open the last one. "Who wouldn't be?"

The door revealed nothing more than the same that was found on the other side; just nothing but another short rack of clothes, a few shelves of towels and some drawers on the bottom. Only the bottom drawer had a small smudge of blood near the top, which looked like someone had attempted to wipe it.

He opened it, and found that it contained nothing short of a bloody mess that barely even resembled a person; Sakura had somehow managed to cram someone her size into a drawer.

"Looks like we've found who we were looking for."

Izumo gaped at the drawer's contents. "What the hell even happened? I thought they were friends!"

Kotetsu couldn't believe it either. As much as he wanted to find the truth behind these murders, neither he nor Izumo were currently equipped to draw evidence from the scene.

"There's nothing we can do now except to go and report to Hokage-sama," he replied. After all, they've technically already completed their mission.

Izumo agreed and with that, they left the Haruno residence. By the time they leapt towards the Hokage Tower, the sun had already sunk into an orange glow half-hidden by the horizon, with a dull purple hue blanketing the sky.

Things I would like to say:

*There are no bedroom locks in Japan- this was even mentioned in Evangelion. And since Konoha is like Japan by another name (minus all the magic ninjas, of course), it wouldn't be too much of a stretch for Yuno's home to not have locks on the bedroom doors.

* Oh freaking hell, even I'm confused by the switch between the usage of 'Sakura' and 'Yuno' in the chapter. Sorry about that.

* I can't believe that it's only the third chapter and so much has happened already. Is the story too fast-paced?