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Akatsuki Hiden: Evil Flowers in Full Bloom
Akatsuki Hiden
(暁秘伝 咲き乱れる悪の華, Akatsuki Hiden: Sakimidareru Aku no Hana)
Book Data
Previous Gaara Hiden: A Sandstorm Mirage
Pages 240
Release Date
Japanese July 3, 2015 ISBN (978-4-08-703367-0) Icon - Search
Debut
Characters
Jutsu
Tools

Akatsuki Hiden: Evil Flowers in Full Bloom (暁秘伝 咲き乱れる悪の華, Akatsuki Hiden: Sakimidareru Aku no Hana) is an original story written by Shin Towada and illustrated by Masashi Kishimoto. It is the sixth and last book of the Naruto Hiden series.

Summary

Prologue

Several years after the end of the Fourth Shinobi World War, Sasuke Uchiha travels through a forest. Despite having once been an international criminal, he was granted freedom and a new outlook because of the friendship of Naruto Uzumaki, the love of Sakura Haruno, and the trust of Kakashi Hatake. He now seeks to redeem his past actions by, among other things, looking at the world with new eyes. As Sasuke emerges from the forest, he sees a patch of white flowers growing at the base of a nearby tree. Because he likely would never have even noticed the flowers only a few years ago, he stops for a moment to appreciate them.

While admiring the flowers, Sasuke overhears two young brothers in the nearby flower field, who are throwing paper shuriken at each other while they pretend to be ninja. Ōmitsu, the older brother, is much better at throwing the shuriken than his younger brother, Komitsu, who clearly reveres Ōmitsu's skill; Sasuke is reminded of his own admiration for his brother, Itachi. After expending their inventory of shuriken, Komitsu begins gathering the shuriken from the ground when a gust of wind starts carrying them away. He chases after them, not noticing that he's headed for a cliff. Just as Komitsu starts going over the edge he is caught by Sasuke, who has also gathered all of the paper shuriken.

Komitsu tries to insist that he knew what he was doing but, on seeing how relieved Ōmitsu is by Sasuke's intervention, thanks Sasuke for the help. Because of Sasuke's obvious skill, Komitsu asks if he is Naruto. Sasuke is so surprised by the question that he doesn't respond, further convincing Komitsu. Komitsu asks "Naruto" to help them train and Ōmitsu is unable to calm him. Deciding that this might be a kind of penance, Sasuke agrees to give them some of his time; he first corrects them about his name. As they practice, Sasuke keeps telling himself not to stay for too long and informs the brothers of his intention to leave soon. And yet he continues to linger, drawn to Komitsu's youthful innocence and Ōmitsu's burdensome over-protectiveness.

After a few hours of training, Komitsu shows clear improvement, finally managing to actually hit the targets he aims at. Komitsu is proud of himself, but notices that the sun is setting: the sky is growing dark and the clouds are turning red. It reminds him of Akatsuki. Sasuke is stunned to hear the word, and finds some relief when Ōmitsu corrects Komitsu that "akatsuki" refers to daybreak, not sunset. When Komitsu continues to remain quiet, Ōmitsu is forced to confess to Sasuke that their family was killed by Akatsuki.

Chapter 1

Hypericum Erectum (弟切草, Otogirisō)

Itachi Uchiha and his partner, Kisame Hoshigaki, took shelter for the night in a cave. Because it was the anniversary of the Uchiha Clan Downfall, Itachi couldn't sleep and chose to instead gaze at the moon. As he did so he thought about Sasuke, his younger brother whose innocence he destroyed and by whose hand Itachi hoped to someday die. When that day finally came, Itachi hoped Sasuke would not feel guilt. His thoughts were interrupted by Kisame, who came to check up on him. Kisame joked that he was merely ensuring that Itachi was not trying to defect from Akatsuki, the reason for all Akatsuki partnerships. Itachi was not amused by the suggestion, and Kisame noted he stood no chance against Itachi anyway; nevertheless, he would be happy to die by Itachi's hand.

Just as Kisame turned to go back into the cave, both he and Itachi noticed they were about to be attacked. Mist quickly filled the area and blocked their vision, indicating that their attackers were Kirigakure hunter-nin. Before Kisame could ready his Samehada to defend himself, he was trapped in the Kiri-nin's Water Prison Technique. When the hunter-nin believed they'd successfully captured him, Kisame used Water Release: Exploding Water Colliding Wave to break free. Despite the Kiri-nin's attempts to defend themselves, Kisame quickly killed them all through a combination of Samehada and his own water jutsu.

Kisame believed the battle was over, prompting Kiiro to confront him. Kisame was confused by Kiiro's haughtiness and non-shinobi clothing, giving Kiiro an opportunity to attack him with Water Release: Water Dragon Bullet Technique. As the water dragon assaulted Kisame, Kiiro used Water Release: Angry Bitter Rain, causing dark water to fall on Kisame and cover his eyes. Kiiro's partner, Kodaka, immediately followed up with Lightning Release: Electric Shock Needles, bombarding Kisame with needles that left multiple swelling pustules across his body. From observing the wounds, Kisame guessed he'd been poisoned, so he used Samehada to shave off the affected flesh.

Kodaka was unnerved to see Kisame mutilate himself, so Kiiro shouted at him to perform the "second and last" while he created another opening. With Kisame preoccupied, Itachi finally joined the fray, catching Kiiro with Tsukuyomi and, in an instant, torturing him with the sensation of drowning for two full days. Kiiro collapsed from the trauma and Kodaka went to his aid. Itachi was about to kill them both when he heard Kiiro refer to Kodaka as his older brother, at which point he instead let them escape.

With their attackers gone, Kisame and Itachi studied the scene. Kisame's theory was that Kiiro's Angry Bitter Rain created poisonous water that was injected into the body with Kodaka's Electric Shock Needles. But on testing the dark water, Itachi found no signs of poison, and guessed instead that there was something more to the Electric Shock Needles, possibly the "second and last" that was mentioned. Kisame suggested they pursue Kiiro and Kodaka, but Itachi opted to rest, explaining that Kiiro wasn't in a condition for traveling far. Elsewhere, Kiiro woke up and, on being informed that Kodaka fled rather than finish Kisame off, berated him for cowardice. Kodaka tried to argue that they stood no chance against Kisame and Itachi and that they'd earned enough money from their work with Kirigakure to support their family back home. Kiiro wouldn't listen, too tempted by the potential fame that victory would bring, and insisted on trying again once he recovered.

The following morning, Kisame again suggested they go after the brothers in case they tried another attack. Itachi assured him that it wasn't easy to recover from Tsukuyomi, though mused that brotherly love might heal the damage to Kiiro's mind faster than is normal. While Kisame tried to make sense of this, Itachi contemplated if it was wise for him to avoid the brothers like this, as going after them would signal his loyalty to Akatsuki and make it easier for him to gather information on the organization, in turn helping in his mission to protect Konoha.

As Itachi and Kisame traveled through the woods, they noticed a poisonous bee flying ahead of them with a piece of paper attached to it. Itachi removed the paper without disrupting the bee, but found the paper to be blank. Kisame recognized this from his time with the Cypher Division and imbued the paper with his chakra, causing a message to appear: a letter to the author's family, filled with love. From this, they guessed that at least one of the brothers, similar to members of the Aburame clan, could control bees, and that their jutsu were intended to disguise the bees' involvement in their attacks. The "second and last" they mentioned earlier therefore meant that the bees' poison didn't become fatal until a second sting. Because Kisame had already been stung once, Itachi accepted that they couldn't let the brothers go. They headed in the opposite direction of the bee that had the letter and Itachi cursed the brothers for not escaping when they had the chance.

It wasn't until nightfall that they tracked down the brothers in an area swarming with bees. Because Kodaka noticed them first, they surmised that he was the bee-user. Kiiro immediately used Angry Bitter Rain, but was still too weak to produce much water and what little he could was absorbed by Kisame's Water Release: Water Shark Bullet Technique. Kodaka attacked Kisame with Electric Shock Needles, but Itachi stopped it with Water Release: Starch Syrup Capturing Field, in the process capturing the bees hidden inside. With their secret exposed, Kodaka removed the coat he'd been wearing, revealing the poisonous bees that covered him. He explained that they were from a clan of bee users and that it was tradition for the firstborn to inherit the secret to control bees and that the secondborn was to protect the firstborn. But harvesting honey was no longer enough to make a living, and Kodaka had had to switch to poisonous bees so that he and Kiiro could do freelance-shinobi work.

Their story done, Kodaka sent another swarm at Kisame, and this time it was able to evade Itachi's Starch Syrup Capturing Field. Unable to stop the bees, Itachi instructed Kisame to surround himself with the Water Prison Technique, causing the bees to drown before they could reach him. At the same time, Itachi attacked Kiiro with a Great Fireball Technique. Because Kiiro couldn't defend himself, Kodaka leapt in front of the attack and used himself as a shield. Although the bees covering his body minimized some of the damage, Kodaka's body was still badly burned. With his remaining strength, he ordered the bees to attack.

Rather than attack Kisame or Itachi, however, the bees swarmed over Kiiro. While Kiiro cried and grew numb from the bees' stings, Kodaka explained that, because they were both going to die anyway, he could now take some vengeance: he vented his frustrations with Kiiro's rudeness and jealousy and his anger that Kiiro forced him into shinobi work; although beekeeping was difficult, it was something safe that the family could do together. Kodaka plunged a kunai through the swarm at Kiiro's heart, then used the same kunai to stab his own heart. With his last breath, Kodaka confessed that, despite everything, he, just like their other brothers, loved Kiiro. The bees grew agitated from the death of their master, forcing Itachi and Kisame to flee the area.

Afterwards, Kisame could only note the peculiarities of love and hate that exist between brothers. But Itachi found far greater significance in the episode and once again his thoughts turned to Sasuke. He wondered where Sasuke's path would lead him as he sought vengeance, if he could find some sort of strength through despair. More than that, Itachi wondered if he, like Kodaka, would have the courage to confess his love for his little brother as he died. He supposed he wouldn't know for sure until that moment arrived.

Chapter 2

The Valley of Lies (偽りの谷, Itsuwari no Tani)

Kakuzu and his partner, Hidan, were wandering through the Valley of Lies looking for a man with a 1.5 billion ryō bounty on his head. Because they hadn't seen anybody in days, that in turn meant they hadn't been able to kill anybody, a sin in the eyes of Hidan's god, Jashin. Angry about this and tired of the constant walking, Hidan demanded they give up, proclaiming that nobody lived in the valley. At that exact moment a man emerged from the nearby trees, who Kakuzu recognized as the bounty they were looking for.

Finally having somebody to kill, Hidan chased after the man, using his Triple-Bladed Scythe to get a sample of the man's blood. The man began performing hand seals to counterattack, but stopped when he saw Hidan cutting open his own hand. He watched in confusion as Hidan prepared his Curse Technique: Death Controlling Possessed Blood: Hidan drawing Jashin's symbol on the ground, licking the man's blood from his scythe, the skeleton-pattern appearing on his skin, and finally stabbing himself in the heart. Hidan's ritual completed, the man coughed up blood and died. Hidan immediately began performing a ritual to Jashin, but was interrupted by the appearance of a young boy with muddy hands, who watched the fight and was now curious about how Hidan's ability worked.

Hidan was put off by the boy's many questions, remarking to Kakuzu that there was something wrong with him. When the boy expressed interest in joining the Jashin faith, Kakuzu agreed that something was wrong with him. The boy introduced himself as Hohozuki and watched attentively as Hidan performed the lengthy ritual that was interrupted earlier. Once that was completed, Hidan answered all of the boy's questions, giving introductory lessons about worshiping Jashin. Kakuzu eventually grew weary of this and wanted to move on. Hidan assumed this meant leaving the valley, but Kakuzu corrected him: the dead man's family also had bounties on their head, and they likely lived in the valley as well.

Kakuzu asked Hohozuki if he knew anything about where the man lived. After some brief hesitation, Hohozuki admitted he lived in a nearby village and that the man was probably from there as well, although he couldn't recognize the man's face. Kakuzu, suspicious of this contradictory statement, asked Hohozuki to show them where this village was located in order to prove he wasn't lying. Hohozuki complied, leading them back the way they came to a cliffside next to a river and pointing to the mountain on the opposite side. Kakuzu finally realized why they'd had such difficulty finding the man in the first place, which he then had to explain to Hidan: the village was hidden with a genjutsu; when they dispelled the genjutsu's influence, they could clearly see the village carved into the mountainside.

Because of how much money they stood to make, Kakuzu first wanted to scout the village, called Shangri-la by the villagers. Hohozuki explained that it was a small village, meaning that strangers like Hidan and Kakuzu would stick out and be regarded with suspicion. Hohozuki suggested that Kakuzu use the Transformation Technique to assume Hohozuki's appearance, which Kakuzu complied with; because Hidan was ill-suited for infiltration, he would remain behind with Hohozuki. Hohozuki explained how to reach the village and how to locate his friend, Ameyuki, who would then guide Kakuzu around Shangri-la. He gave Kakuzu a ball of mud, telling him to show it to Ameyuki. Kakuzu found this odd but accepted the mud ball before departing.

When he made it to Shangri-la, Kakuzu concluded that leaving Hidan behind was the right idea, as the villager's strangely happy expressions would likely have provoked Hidan into attacking them. When he found Ameyuki he gave him the mud ball as instructed, having already noticed that it had Hohozuki's chakra in it; when Ameyuki absorbed this chakra, he immediately understood what Hohozuki wanted him to do and began escorting Kakuzu. Sensing that Kakuzu was wary of his assistance, Ameyuki assured him that his sole purpose was doing as Hohozuki wished.

Meanwhile, Hidan continued to tell Hohozuki about Jashin. Hohozuki had already decided to join the faith and kill in the name of Jashin, but worried that he wasn't as strong as the people in the world who advocated for peace. Hidan assured him this wasn't a problem by noting that such people don't actually exist, using his own experience in Yugakure as an example: when he tried to kill his fellow villagers for being peaceful, they responded by trying to kill him first; if they truly loved peace, they would have let themselves die. Hohozuki then asked about Jashin's demand that worshipers kill their neighbor, asking if that meant Hidan would need to kill Kakuzu. Hidan made explicit that he hated Kakuzu, and for that reason he would never consider Kakuzu to be his neighbor. Hohozuki was comforted by this.

Kakuzu eventually returned empty-handed, having been unable to locate the dead man's family. Although Hidan wanted to leave the valley immediately, Kakuzu insisted they wait until the morning. Hohozuki returned to Shangri-la, promising to come see them off before they left. When he was gone, Kakuzu noted they would need to kill him as well as Ameyuki, as they knew too much. Hidan suggested they not wait until the morning, but Kakuzu insists, having noticed that some of the villagers, beneath their happy facades, seemed worried about something. Indeed, during the night, these same villagers came searching the forest for the dead man. Kakuzu allowed them to find the man's body, distracting them while he activated his Earth Grudge Fear and killed them with Lightning Release: False Darkness.

Kakuzu examined their bodies and recognized them as the man's family. He realized they must all have been using the Transformation Technique, with their deaths causing them to revert to their real appearances. Suspecting that all of Shangri-la's villagers are bounties in disguise, Kakuzu decided to attack the village, to Hidan's relief. As they started assaulting the village, Kakuzu's theory proved correct, as everyone's face changed when they died and every face had a bounty on it. Kakuzu guessed that the village's leader must be especially valuable and went off to find him, instructing Hidan to deal with Hohozuki and Ameyuki, who had come to meet them.

Though he hadn't been bothering with Jashin's ritual thus far, Hidan promised Hohozuki he would now do the ritual properly, starting with Ameyuki. When he struck Ameyuki, however, he discovered that he was made from mud. The mud body fell apart, prompting Hohozuki to remove his own Transformation Technique and reveal himself as the real Ameyuki. Ameyuki explained that he'd been disguising himself as his friend Hohozuki ever since he came to Shangri-la, living alongside a mud lookalike of himself. With the lookalike now gone, Ameyuki could be himself once more. Hidan was confused by this, but was at least able to recognize that Ameyuki wanted to fight; Ameyuki explained that he regarded Hidan as his neighbor and was willing to kill him.

Ameyuki attacked Hidan with Mud Release, his kekkei genkai. Having never heard of it before, Hidan was placed at a disadvantage, allowing Ameyuki to force large quantities of mud down his throat; Hidan saved himself from suffocation by piercing himself in the lung. Hidan retaliated against Ameyuki and was able to get a sample of blood. But every time he tried to initiate his ritual by drawing Jashin's symbol on the ground, Ameyuki turned the ground into mud. When Kakuzu, having killed the village leader, returned, Hidan requested his help, but Kakuzu declined, explaining he wanted to see who else he could find in Shangri-la.

At Kakuzu's suggestion, Hidan fled back into the forest with Ameyuki in pursuit. As he continued evading Ameyuki's mud, it occurred to Hidan that Kakuzu was not telling him to retreat. After putting some distance between himself and Ameyuki, he located a tree stump upon which he could draw Jashin's symbol. Because Ameyuki could only turn dirt into mud, he was unable to destroy the symbol on the tree stump, allowing Hidan to create a link. Hidan stabbed himself in the side, preventing Ameyuki from moving further. Ameyuki praised Hidan's skills and, when Hidan promised to kill him, said it was what he wanted.

Like many with kekkei genkai, Ameyuki was hated by most of the people in the village he was born in. The exception was Hohozuki, his only friend. When slavers attacked their village and kidnapped the women and children - Hohozuki included - Ameyuki went after them and killed the slavers with his Mud Release, saving Hohozuki yet earning a bounty on his head. Rather than thank Ameyuki for stopping the slavers, the villagers became fearful of his power and tried to kill him. Hohozuki made plans for them to escape to Shangri-la, but the villagers found out about this before they could leave and killed Hohozuki. Ameyuki felt guilty for his role in Hohozuki's death, but decided to live on at Hohozuki's request.

Although Ameyuki looked forward to being made a sacrifice to Jashin, he wanted to make a sacrifice of his own first. Quoting Jashin's commandment that he kill his neighbors, Ameyuki performed Mud Release: Landslide, causing the mountain to fall upon Shangri-la and kill everyone still living there. Hidan praised Ameyuki's last act and stabbed himself in the heart, killing him.

Kakuzu located them a short while later, having managed to escape Shangri-la with several valuable bounties in tow. He noted that Ameyuki's would be the most valuable, as in addition to killing the slavers he'd also killed his entire village, for which reason he'd been listed in the Bingo Book. He speculated that Ameyuki's interest in Jashin, who demanded slaughter, was a way of coping with what he'd done. Moreover, he probably went around with a lookalike of himself because he wanted to be found and killed. With so many bounties to turn in, Kakuzu requested Hidan hurry up with his post-killing ritual. Hidan refused, noting he would in fact take longer than usual because he had a martyr to celebrate: Ameyuki.

Chapter 3

The Day of Emergence (浮かびあがる日, Ukabiageru Hi)

Sasori and his partner, Deidara, had just finished destroying a village under orders from Akatsuki; Deidara blew up the village's buildings with his Explosive Clay and Sasori killed the survivors from within his Hiruko puppet. Sasori wanted to immediately report the mission's success back to Akatsuki, but Deidara first wanted to find a new clay that would better convey his "art". Thinking it over, Sasori suggested that the small Ceramic Village might have a good supply of clay. Deidara liked the idea and created a clay bird to transport them there, which Sasori, after thinking it over, boarded.

Although the Ceramic Village was in the Land of Wind, Sasori wanted to avoid Sunagakure, so they instead approached from the nearby Land of Rivers. During the initial fly-over Deidara could see all the ceramics that decorated the buildings and the active chimneys used in their creation; Deidara imagined the beauty that would be achieved in their destruction. They set down near the village's outskirts, but found that there was a solitary workshop there. Deidara investigated and found a young woman destroying her own ceramics. Believing the woman shared his view of art through destruction, Deidara greeted her and showed off some of his own art. The woman, Kanyū, explained that she destroyed her creations because they were failures. Furthermore, she didn't think much of Deidara's demonstration, but she acknowledged it may still have merit. She returned to her work and Deidara, deciding she was not insulting him, followed Sasori into the village.

The Ceramic Village was very crowded, with shoppers and salesmen moving between the many ceramics stalls that lined the streets. At the center of the village was a large mansion that was adorned with thousands of ceramic tiles; Sasori explained that the village's leader lived there. Although Deidara was at first impressed by the sheer quantity of ceramics within the village, he decided that there wasn't any actual quality, as everything he'd seen was too luxurious and overwhelmed with color. Sasori agreed. He explained that when he previously visited the village many years ago this wasn't the case, as the village then had a very tasteful, simple style that the ceramists had clearly moved away from. Such was art, Sasori and Deidara decided.

While looking for the source of the village's clay, Sasori and Deidara were careful to avoid drawing attention to themselves. As such, they only killed in moderation. Deidara was hopeful that the clay would be enough for him to kill Orochimaru, who he blamed for his recruitment into Akatsuki; had Orochimaru never defected, Deidara would never have been forced to join. But on finally finding the mine where the village collected its clay, Deidara was unimpressed, deeming it inferior to the clay he was already using. He apologized to Sasori for wasting their time. But Sasori was not deterred and wanted to return to town.

Back in the Ceramic Village, Deidara and Sasori found Kanyū arguing with the villager's leader, Gōshō, whose clothing was just as tasteless as the village's ceramics. Kanyū was pleading for him to help revive the Hanasaki art style so that the village could regain its integrity. Gōshō refused, insisting that it was only after abandoning Hanasaki that the village achieved prosperity. Kanyū attempted to convince him by mentioning Mashō, prompting Gōshō to strike her. Some nearby villagers began approaching in order to check on her, but when Gōshō threatened to banish anyone who helped, they walked away. He ridiculed her pursuit of art for art's sake, saying that art that didn't sell was worthless. Gōshō returned to his mansion and Deidara, angered by his remarks about art, destroyed his gaudy coat with a small explosive.

Kanyū noticed what Deidara did and approached him to apologize for making a scene, yet also smiled approvingly. When Sasori asked what happened to Mashō, indicating that he once knew him, Kanyū took them to a shrine near her workshop. It was made by Mashō, the creator of the Hanasaki style, and as such its surface resembled flowers, an effect that was very difficult to produce. Kanyū herself was a student of Mashō and showed them the Hanasaki-made pendant he'd given her to prove it. Sasori and Deidara agreed that Hanasaki was beautiful; Sasori noted that his grandmother once hired Mashō to make some Hanasaki-prosthetics for her puppets. He expressed regret that Mashō would abandon the village, but Kanyū insisted that wasn't the case. She believed that his ten-year disappearance, as well as the disappearances of all the other Hanasaki ceramists, must mean they were looking for a place where Hanasaki could thrive.

Because it was getting late, Kanyū invited Deidara and Sasori to stay the night; they agreed, but insisted on separate rooms. After dinner, Deidara watched Kanyū work at her kiln trying to rediscover the secret of Hanasaki. He suggested that she fire the ceramics faster, but she replied that that would only destroy them. Kanyū asked if the food she made for them was alright since Sasori didn't eat any. Deidara told her not to worry about it and, explaining that Sasori gave up his body for his art. Although he didn't understand Sasori's definition of art, he at least agreed with the commitment, a sentiment Kanyū shared.

While Kanyū returned to her work, Sasori led Deidara back to Mashō's shrine. He destroyed it and had Deidara examine the debris. Upon doing so, Deidara immediately noticed the quality of the clay that it was made from, proof that there really was an excellent source of clay somewhere in the village. They guessed it must be kept within Gōshō's mansion and headed there. Upon reaching it, Deidara blew up the front doors and, when the mansion's guards came to investigate, Sasori used the Puppet Technique to force them to kill themselves. They then started searching the mansion.

Deidara and Sasori eventually located a workshop deep within the mansion. Deidara made a spider using the clay he found there and was immediately impressed by it, as it was a much closer representation of his artistic vision than the other clays he'd tried. He tried to show it to Sasori, but Sasori was preoccupied studying the secrets of the village's ceramic glazes that were also stored in the workshop; it was for this reason that Sasori agreed to come to Ceramic Village in the first place, as these glazes would expand his knowledge of poisons. Since they'd both found what they wanted, Sasori wanted to leave. Deidara refused, as there wasn't nearly enough clay in the workshop for his purposes. Ideally he wanted to find where the clay was gathered from, the location of which only Gōshō would likely know.

Deidara tracked down Gōshō in the mansion and fought the urge to immediately kill him. He followed Gōshō in secret, who was apparently seeking shelter from their attack. Gōshō ran out to the mansion's garden and, after confirming he wasn't being watched, unearthed a door hidden in the ground. Confident that this was where the Hanasaki clay was located, Deidara finally confronted Gōshō. When Gōshō opened his mouth in surprise, Deidara threw into it the spider he made earlier and detonated it. Once again he was mesmerized by the clay's quality, as even from a distance he could feel the explosion's heat. Sasori inspected the door that Gōshō had been about to open and discovered that powerful seals were placed on it, seals only Gōshō would have been able to remove.

Deidara refused to give up after coming so far. He created a C2 dragon and boarded it with Sasori. Just as they were about to take flight, Kanyū appeared and started yelling at them for what they'd done. Sasori criticized her for caring more about the village than her art, but she corrected him: she wasn't upset for their attack on the village, she was upset that they destroyed Mashō's shrine. Satisfied with this answer, Deidara suggested that she evacuate, otherwise Hanasaki's future would be lost. Realizing what he intended, Kanyū began running. As they watched her go, Deidara insisted to Sasori that he merely owed her for dinner, which Sasori acknowledged was a fair point.

Kanyū retreated all the way back to her workshop. Although she knew she should try to get further away, her most recent work was still in the kiln and she wouldn't leave without seeing how it turned out. She watched as the C2 dragon soared into the sky and fired its payload. The explosion leveled the village and she was engulfed in the blast.

Deidara and Sasori inspected the crater where Gōshō's mansion had been, eventually locating the underground passage that the sealed door led to. They did indeed find a larger supply of Hanasaki clay there, but Deidara was still disappointed by how little there was. He continued searching the underground hoping there would be more, but found only a mound of skeletons. While inspecting these, Sasori noticed that one was wearing a pendant very similar to the one Kanyū wore. He concluded that the bodies were once Mashō and the other Hanasaki ceramists, killed by Gōshō. Probably the supply of Hanasaki clay had grown too small to continue supporting the village, so rather than let the village suffer while that dying art was pursued, Gōshō killed Mashō and the others so that the village would be free to pursue new forms of art.

Deidara was conflicted: although he wanted the Hanasaki clay, he was worried that taking it would mean that Hanasaki was truly dead. Sasori disagreed, believing that an artist's dedication could overcome any limitation of supplies. Indeed, when Kanyū finally woke up in the morning, she immediately ran to her kiln, which was mostly undamaged by the blast. Inside was her most recent work, a perfect example of the Hanasaki style; Deidara's explosion had fired it fast enough to achieve the flower-like effect. Now understanding its secret, Kanyū began contemplating what sorts of clays she should be using, believing heat-resistance is the most important quality. At that moment, Mashō's pendant dropped in front of her. She looked up and saw Deidara and Sasori flying away on the C2 dragon. She shouted thanks to them for their help.

Chapter 4

The Unwithering Flower (枯れぬ花, Karene Hana)

Konan watched through her window at the perpetual rain falling in Amegakure, thinking about her childhood: how, when she had no parents, no home, and no food, she was found and saved by Yahiko. She was forced to return to the present by Nagato, who spoke to her through his Deva Path (formerly Yahiko's body). Nagato told her that Madara Uchiha was on his way.

Madara told Konan and Nagato about a man in the Valley of Lies that supposedly had information on the tailed beasts. Nagato pointed out that Hidan and Kakuzu had recently destroyed the village there, but Madara explained that the informant fled to safety right before the village's destruction. Because the informant was once a ninja of Iwagakure, it's possible he knew something about Iwa's jinchūriki. Because of the secrecy surrounding jinchūriki's identities, it was important that Akatsuki obtain any information they could in order to accomplish their goals.

Nagato agreed that the informant should be questioned. With that settled, Madara wanted Konan to be the one to seek out the informant. Konan protested, as she had duties in Ame and also needed to stay with Nagato. She suggested sending Hidan and Kakuzu since they'd just been there, but Madara replied that they were already out on a new mission. Madara cut her off before she could suggest anyone else, explaining that she, as a member of Akatsuki, should actually contribute sometimes. Nagato assured her it was okay and she finally relented. Madara instructed Zetsu to show her how to reach the Valley of Lies before departing.

Konan went back to her room to prepare for the journey. It would take ten days roundtrip, ten days that she would be away from Nagato. Although she knew he would be alright during her absence, she was nevertheless anxious, as Yahiko had always emphasized how important Nagato was to their dreams of peace; she suspected Yahiko told her this because he knew she might prioritize him over Nagato. She pulled a sheet of yellowing paper from its hiding place near her chest and examined the old pressed flower stored inside. She quickly sniffed the flower, returned it to its hiding place, and went to meet with Zetsu. Zetsu set out and, after a brief farewell from Nagato's Deva Path, Konan followed.

Shortly after traveling beyond the rains of Amegakure, Konan and Zetsu stopped at the base of a mountain road. As Zetsu was telling her how to reach the next waypoint, it suddenly shouted out. Konan was put on guard and followed Zetsu's gaze to the roots of a nearby tree. Zetsu noted that the white flowers growing there were very similar to the flower ornament Konan kept in her hair. Although it was now clear they weren't being attacked like she first thought, she remained tense, as the flowers' sweet scent caused her to remember Yahiko.

Konan and Yahiko had been visiting a village near the border with the Land of Fire to obtain supplies. The supplies were all priced with Konoha-nin in mind, which was more than Konan and Yahiko could afford. Yahiko, disappointed, was about the leave the village when he suddenly ran off and told Konan to turn away. She complied, and when he returned he presented her with a white flower. It was damaged, enough that the seller had been about to throw it away, but Yahiko convinced the seller to let him have it for free. It reminded him of Konan's hair ornament and, furthermore, flowers were a luxury in Ame due to the heavy rains. Yahiko avoided Konan's eyes as he held it out to her and she, blushing, accepted it.

Konan was forced from her memories by Zetsu. Seeing how much she liked the flowers, it roughly took a bouquet of them and gave them to her so that she wouldn't waste anymore time. It resumed its instructions and left to meet her there. Konan put the flowers with the pressed flower near her chest and continued on. After catching up with Zetsu and then moving on to the next meeting place, Konan noticed the flowers' scent again. It reminded her of when, a few days after being given the flower by Yahiko, she decided to preserve it by pressing it beneath a stone. The end result wasn't perfect, but she was pleased with the results.

While admiring the newly pressed flower in their hideout, Konan was surprised by the appearance of Nagato, just returned from a successful mission with Yahiko. To celebrate, they began preparing a meal so that it would be ready when Yahiko returned as well. As they worked, Nagato mentioned his desire to see Jiraiya again once they'd accomplished their dream of ending all wars. Konan supported this. Nagato also mentioned his desire to someday, after the wars were ended, have more people who were precious to him, something that only Konan could accomplish. "Flowers bear fruit sometimes," he said.

Konan hadn't understood what Nagato meant at the time. But remembering that conversation allowed her to finally make sense of his words, and the anguish of that caused her to pause in her travels. She noticed another patch of the flowers from before by the roots of a nearby tree. On inspecting them, she found one of the flowers bore fruit, filled with seeds. While she rested that night, examining the seeds in her hand, she reflected that she was no longer a flower that could bear fruit.

After meeting Zetsu again, it gave her the final set of instructions to reach the Valley of Lies; Zetsu would not be accompanying her the rest of the way. The flowers from before, though they were now withering, still had their scent, which continued to evoke her past. She remembered the day Yahiko died: when Konan was taken hostage by Hanzō and Yahiko, despite her pleas to escape with Nagato, killed himself. Konan believed that Nagato also died that day, in a sense: where once he was kind and sensitive, he became ruthless and uncompromising; he was willing to work with Madara, who had distorted Akatsuki into the opposite of what Yahiko would have wanted.

Konan came across a field of the same white flowers. To be presented with such a stark reminder of Yahiko caused her to see him at her side. He articulated her guilt, her belief that Nagato and Yahiko would have gone on to create the peace they dreamed of if only she'd been the one to die. When their task was completed, they would have sought out Jiraiya like they'd planned, and maybe they would have mentioned her fondly. Yahiko, Konan felt, would have steered Nagato from the darkness that now consumed him. Yahiko's image encouraged Konan to give up on Akatsuki and save herself from Nagato's corruption.

On hearing Yahiko say this, Konan became leery. She attacked with Paper Shuriken, but the flowers were undamaged. Realizing what this meant, she freed herself from the genjutsu's influence. The field of flowers disappeared, revealing that she'd been about to walk over a cliff: the Valley of Lies. With the genjutsu dispelled, the informant attacked her, and she fled into the nearby forest to find better terrain. But Yahiko's image kept following her. Realizing the genjutsu was working through the flowers, she discarded them and their seeds. Yahiko's image, though faded, still persisted, forcing her to discard her Akatsuki cloak as well, which the scent had seeped into.

Though she couldn't see Yahiko, his voice still reached her. As a last resort, she took the paper that contained the flower pressing, turned it into a Paper Shruiken, and threw it, successfully hitting the informant. With the informant's Scent of Illusionary Flowers Technique now finally gone, she descended upon him, encasing him in paper. While it was true she blamed herself for Yahiko's death, the genjutsu had been pushing her to blame Nagato too; she did not believe Nagato was at fault, which is how she discovered the genjutsu. Enraged that Yahiko's memory had been so abused by the informant's genjutsu, Konan killed the informant.

Before the informant died, Konan was able to confirm that he used to know the Four-Tails' jinchūriki. But he didn't know the jinchūriki well, nor did he know where the jinchūriki could be found, meaning the entire journey was a waste of time. She returned to Amegakure, treading upon the pressed flower as she went. Zetsu and Obito Uchiha watched her leave, disappointed by how things had turned out; Obito thought Nagato's hatred might have grown stronger if Konan died. Yahiko had once warned Konan against his (as "Madara") help, and therefore she'd always been rebellious towards him. But Obito accepted that she would remain loyal as long as Nagato was around. Obito sent Zetsu away and, after thinking of Rin, departed as well.

Epilogue

When Sasuke hears that Ōmitsu and Komitsu's family was killed by Akatsuki, he feels guilty because of his own brief time with the organization. He thinks about the people he killed during his membership and wonders if their family was among them. As he worries over this, their older brother, Kiiro, calls out to them, repeating his instructions that they not play among the flowers. Ōmitsu and Komitsu run to his side and apologize, just as Kiiro notices Sasuke. He at first thinks he recognizes Sasuke, but then realizes the man he's thinking of would be dead by now; Sasuke guesses he means Itachi.

Ōmitsu introduces Sasuke and explains that he saved Komitsu from falling over the cliff. Kiiro thanks Sasuke and sends Ōmitsu and Komitsu home to retrieve something. When they're gone, Sasuke asks how Kiiro knows Itachi, and Kiiro briefly details when he and Kodaka met Itachi and Kisame. But Kiiro corrects Ōmitsu and Komitsu's claim that Akatsuki killed Kodaka; he's explained to them many times that isn't what happened, but they're too young to understand. Kodaka died because of Kiiro's selfishness and thirst for fame. If Kiiro had listened to Kodaka and escaped when they had the chance, Kodaka would still be alive.

Kiiro believes that Itachi should actually be thanked for sparing his life, as Itachi's Sharingan would doubtlessly have made him aware of Kodaka's ruse. He always wondered why Itachi let him live, but now that he's met Sasuke he understands: Itachi, like Kodaka, had a younger brother. Kodaka transferred his bees to Kiiro before he died, which Kiiro has since been using to support Ōmitsu and Komitsu. Originally they traveled around selling honey, but the flowers that grow by this cliff are abundant enough to support them, finally allowing them to settle down.

Sasuke hears an explosion further down the cliff, which Kiiro explains to be from the kilns for ceramics; the muddy earth in the area is perfect for ceramics. Sasuke notices Kiiro's wedding ring: a white ceramic with a flower pattern. Ōmitsu and Komitsu return with an infant, who they hand to Kiiro. Although this was not what he sent them for, Kiiro is nevertheless happy to see his son. They also hand him a bottle of medicinal honey, which he hands to Sasuke as thanks for helping Komitsu. Sasuke departs and Ōmitsu and Komitsu wave goodbye. Kiiro also shouts to him, asking if his brother was kind like Kodaka was. Sasuke replies, "Yeah!"

The novel ends with: "Akatsuki also had family. / Akatsuki also had loved ones. / They too were shinobi, and were human."