Naruto: Wind Monk Banishment 13 (Main)
Chapter 13: Awakening
He was being chased. Sasuke didn’t see who it was doing the chasing, but he knew what it felt like to be chased. That was the case here, and he found himself regretting the intimate use of his genjutsu with her girlfriend. And he didn’t have any weapons. Why couldn’t they pull this bullshit some other night?
The trees surrounding Tsunade’s place were thick and hardy, making the branches sturdy and wide enough to support his weight as he made his way down towards the village with his unconscious former teammate. The Anbu guarding Naruto might be dead, but there were others there who could help him.
Sasuke almost stumbled as a lance of pain stabbed inside of him, a lingering ache from where Hinata has stricken him. She was seriously trying to kill Naruto, and he doubted she would give up. Fuck, what was he going to do about that? There was no good ending here for her, not at this rate, and the fallout from it would end up on Naruto’s shoulders.
They had already done enough, but her death would turn Neji and Kiba against him at the very least. Considering the Sannin intended to reintegrate him into their forces, something Sasuke doubted was likely but everyone was entitled to hope, that would only add to the problem. Plus, she was legitimately sick in the head from her family screwing her over. Having been on the receiving end of Itachi’s idea of brotherly love with watching him kill their parents over and over, he knew damn well how hard that played on the mind.
His thoughts about trying to convince Tsunade not to execute her came to an abrupt halt, much like he did, when he was hit by a blunt force long-distance chakra strike that belonged to her clan. His Sharingan whirled as he traced the lingering motes of chakra that marked the trail of the attack to find her location and then used his chakra-coated feet to slide down the tree and take refuge behind it as another two strikes blew gouges into the bark. He was working on the assumption that she didn’t actually have the reserves left to punch through the trunk entirely, and thankfully that was correct.
“Hinata, give it a rest!” he called out. “You need to get medical attention before those wounds kill you!”
No answer back, but he didn’t think it was safe to move. The moment he ducked out of cover, she would see it with her Byakugan and he would be a sitting duck. That was one thing she had on him, range. Yet, if he didn’t move, then she’d just sneak around to get into a better position, unless she had already succumbed to her wounds after that last attack. It said a lot about the situation when the latter was bordering on a best-case scenario.
Sasuke’s head snapped upwards when he heard the almost silent sound of wood splintering above him as it gave birth to that… thing that was after Naruto before. It grinned as it pulled itself loose and lunged for them, forcing Sasuke to move from his cover. It was exactly what he wanted to avoid as another chakra strike from Hinata, who had moved for a better vantage point as he feared, hit home and Naruto was knocked from his arms.
Sasuke could only watch as Naruto’s unconscious body was sent falling down the slope, disappearing into the darkness of the night. It’d hurt, but the fall wouldn’t kill him. That moment of a distraction was still all it took for the creature to lunge and entrap him, melting onto his skin in an effort to become one with him.
“Gotcha!” it said, leeching off his already low chakra reserves.
“GET OFF!” Sasuke called forth the remainder of the chakra before it could be spent and transmuted it into lightning that draped him like a serpent, surrounding him and electrocuting the creature with its potency. It tore away from him with a minor scream before scurrying down to where Naruto fell. He made to go after them when the lightning sputtered out, taking his strength with it as he fell to his knees and braced his arm against a tree for support.
“Shit,” he hissed. The sweat now pouring down his face curved around his lips as he gritted his teeth. He was too tired to move, but if he didn’t do something Naruto was going to be taken. He tried to get back up and stand strong, but the flesh was unwilling and he collapsed again as his eyes flickered back to normal, no longer capable of using the Sharingan from pure deprivation.
“Not like this,” he told himself. Sasuke had sworn to make amends to Naruto for that day long ago, his lightning-wreathed hand plunging into his body and burning his blood, tearing his muscles, and breaking the bones of his ribcage. It was only a fluke and the fox that he hadn’t killed Naruto then.
Unable to walk or even stand, with cracked ribs and blood from where his flesh had been raked by wooden pikes, Sasuke resorted to dragging himself down the slope.
With Naruto – Inner World
“The system needs to be changed,” Naruto stated as he left the torrent of memories that was his own, unbridled vision. His other half just stared at him silently, not mocking or denying, nor approving. Naruto’s shoulders sagged as he understood he was lying to himself again. “No. The system needs to be abolished.”
It was a conclusion he had come to, but not an ideal one—nor practical under normal circumstances. Taking out the five major Hidden Villages wouldn’t work because there were dozens of smaller ones that would rise up and make themselves the new powers of the five nations, perpetuating the cycle of violence and death. It may even be worse considering they would vie against one another in hopes of achieving such a thing, collateral damage would be unavoidable.
“The sage gave them a gift in hopes of ending the wars, failing to realize that his gift would be turned into another weapon,” Dark Naruto said, breaking his silence. “He did not want to see that, even if he took away all of their weapons, humans would continue to kill each other by tearing out each other’s throats with their teeth. They squandered his gift—tainted it.”
Naruto knew where the train of thought was going. They should take the gift back, severing the ability to connect hearts and spiritual energy with physical energy. He wanted to say it was impossible, but it was usually easier to destroy something than to create it. “That won’t stop the violence.”
“But they won’t taint his gift further.”
“It’ll take time—even if what you’re asking is possible.”
“We have a long lifespan and there is an entire world,” his other half stated.
“You really think it could be done?”
Dark Naruto smiled. It was not a kind smile, but one of assurance and rather smug. “We think it could be done. I am you and you are me. If the thought was not there, it would not escape our lips.”
“It’ll lead to more deaths in the end, before equilibrium is reached.” They were empty words, a last futile attempt to avoid that long road that there was no escaping from once he committed to it.
“Blood that would have been spilled regardless,” Dark Naruto argued, crushing the attempt ruthlessly with infallible logic. “You cannot save what is beyond saving. You cannot change the world from chaos into paradise, but—”
“—you can at least take away one source of the chaos,” Naruto finished with a sigh. “I got it. I just wanted to be left alone with Fuu, maybe start a new village free of the violence, but I can see that sort of life is beyond me.”
“Have you come to terms?“ Kurama asked.
“We have,” they spoke in unison, the darkness woven together in Naruto’s form unraveling itself and shrouding back into the original. The ink-black darkness dyed his hair in its color, and his eyes turned from azure to violet. Unified, Naruto stood up and reached up to the sealed orb of purified Yang Chakra only for the lock to come undone. He held the luminous sphere that contrasted his appearance with a resolute gaze before looking into Kurama’s eyes.
“You’re at the starting line it seems then, Kit,” said the fox.
“Don’t call me ‘Kit’ anymore,” Naruto stated. “Not after we’ve come to terms. Not after what we’ll do from this point…Are you okay with this, Kurama?”
The Nine-Tailed Fox tilted its head.
“You didn’t aid my darker half in Uzushio because he was going for pure destruction,” Naruto clarified. “What we’re doing here may be structured, but the end result will be possibly more devastating.”
“True.” What could be construed as a chuckle left Kurama’s mouth as his tails wavered back and forth. “But to accomplish your goal, you will need to free my brethren from their fate. You will crush our enemies that seek to enslave us, and shatter the vessel of the Ten-Tails. You, descendant of the second-born of our father, will then unmake the system birthed by a perversion of his wishes. The price you will pay will be your future, will it not?”
“So it seems,” Naruto agreed.
“This presents the best chance of seeing my father’s gift removed from unworthy hands. I have no qualms about accompanying you for the rest of your life as those who abused his gift are made penitent by watching as it fades from their eyes, knowing that they are former shells of fleas that were once capable of bending the world to their will through his arts.”
Naruto nodded. “I’ll need to do research and deal with Akatsuki first, but I’ll do it…”
“Then you can start with the one pursing you now.” The world rippled and Naruto watched as the scene played out around his body. The altercation between Hinata and Sasuke, the arrival of Itachi and the masked man, the chase and his body being thrown aside by the last attack as the effect of unsealing the chakra was starting to bleed out into his actual body. Kurama snarled at the masked man, his tails becoming more rigid in their movement as his lips curled back to reveal his fangs. “That chakra as sinister as that which controlled me once before, that of the arch-traitor himself… ”
“Then let’s get started,” Naruto stated as he crushed the sphere in his hand. The Yang chakra consumed him like a curtain of flames, spreading over his body until it was engulfed by it. “We’ve slept long enough.”
There was a flash in his mindscape as his consciousness surfaced for the first time in days, and Naruto opened his eyes to reality in time to see the a chakra-coated palm poised to strike him.
It hurt just to breathe. Every breath was haggard and stretched her lungs into where she had been run-through, fresh pain surging through her body and making every step agonizing. Life seeped out with every drop of blood spilled, an agonizingly slow death from having her stomach impaled.
She’d been used tonight, by chance rather than anything else. She had been meant to take the fall for Nine-Tails’ being spirited away, blood spilled on her hands. The thought didn’t bother her as much as it should have, not when it was just as likely she wouldn’t have made it this far without the interference—only she had no intention of failing in slaying the fox.
She’d attacked Shino-kun, who had been her silent ally through their training. She’d led Kiba-kun on, knowing full-well that they wouldn’t meet alive again after this night. She’d given up everything else at this point—friends, family, allies, everything. There was no turning back.
No matter what, she had to kill it.
Her eyes picked up Sasuke’s fleeing form in the darkness, burdened by injury, lack of chakra, and the fox. He wouldn’t get far. She struck with a ranged technique and staggered him, but he quickly recovered from the assault. She was weaker than she thought apparently, but it didn’t stop her from using both hands this time and blasted twice only to blow out chunks of a tree.
It left her panting as she leaned behind the one she was near, eyeing him as he yelled for her to stop. Her rebuttal was to navigate around in order to get a chance at another shot. Only the pain had worsened, leaving her legs ready to give out mid-transit.
Just a little more, she told herself. All she needed was a little more time and it would be over. Then she noticed the thing that had been in the room reconstituting itself on the bark of the tree above his head. It lunged for Sasuke, forcing him to abandon his hiding place, and Hinata struck again with success—albeit too weak to do anything critical or severely damaging with how weak she had gotten.
No matter. The fox was thrown down the slope, coming to a rest against a tree at the base in the darkness. It was her chance. She threw her remaining strength into descending downwards with her failing legs until she came to a clumsy roll at the base, down on all fours as blood seeped down from her mouth and the gaping wound in her gut.
Just a little further, she told herself as she crawled over to him and rose onto her knees. She looked down at the fox’s peaceful sleeping face and felt hatred towards it. That hatred allowed her to grab hold of enough chakra to wreathe her hand in it until it glowed with pale-blue fury. A single strike that would blow away his heart and rend his chakra network beyond repair, even as Yang chakra began bleeding out of him.
Her palm descended towards his unguarded chest. His left hand came up and caught her wrist before it could touch and inflict the fatal wound. His eyes opened, azure pupils gently staring into her hue-less pair.
For a single moment, from exhaustion and pain, what could have been had things been a bit different flashed through her mind in an effort to escape the suffering she was in. They could have married. They could have had children. They—she could have been happy.
“Narut—” The words that slipped out so carelessly in a moment of weakness were cut off abruptly as pain lanced her chest, flaring for a brief moment and then going numb. She looked down to see that his palm was pressed against her chest, the yellowish-tint of Yang chakra between her jacket’s surface and his hand. As he drew back his hand, she saw that crimson coated it and realized that her heart had been pierced by a chakra blade.
With that realization, her strength finally faded. It flooded out of her like the blood from her wound. She swayed to the side, before falling to her right onto the ground.
He caught her before she hit and gently laid her body supine as death gripped her and her consciousness wavered. It was as if he was mocking her, showing her kindness after he had killed her. It was laughable, even when he reached down and closed her eyelids as if to tell her to sleep.
As death solidified its hold on her, dragging her soul to the Pure Lands, the visions of what could have been returned. It was solely the efforts of her dying brain, trying to comfort her with what had been her deepest desires during a time when she had been innocent, before the truth came to light: A life with a different Naruto, one that became the Hokage, and with their two children. It wasn’t a bad dream.
Wrapping herself inside of that fantasy, Hinata Hyuuga died with a soft smile on her face.
Kanna was hoisted in the air, forced to scrape her nails against the surprisingly sylvan arm that held her aloft, digging its fingers into her throat to suffocate her. It had simply been the two of them alone, the unconscious green-haired Jinchuuriki and the current Wind Daimyo, when she left to use the bathroom. When she returned, it had been in the room and tried to grab Fuu. Kanna had reacted on reflex upon seeing it by hitting it with the vase holding the flowers that were present, only for the thing with green hair and skin as pale as bleached wood to grab her by the throat.
She struggled, even if it was fruitless, refusing to be the same victim that she had been when she had to be rescued by Naruto years ago. But it was in vain as the creature that only bore the shape of a human in the loosest of sense smiled in an ugly sort of manner. Her vision was tunneling, her thoughts swimming away with her consciousness.
Then there was a loud crashing sound and a strong wind passing by that brought both air and freedom. She gasped as she hit the floor, panting frantically as her body tried to take in as much air as it could to make up for the lack. It left her dizzy, even as she tried to raise her head to see what happened.
Fuu was awake, out of the bed and shrouded in a greenish-cloak of chakra that wove itself into five tails connecting to her tail-bone. The wall that had been near the window had a gaping hole in it, as though something had been plowed through it. From the corners and the edges of it swarmed insects of all kinds.
“F…” Kanna tried to speak as the insects swarmed the Jinchuuriki of the Seven-Tailed Beetle’s flesh and melded together, becoming armor formed of chitin and chakra plates that overlapped every inch of her skin while forming red lens to act as her eyes. But her voice was lost to her as she gasped for air again.
“There’s nothing more you can do,” whispered the amassed insects around Fuu in a distorted version of her own voice. She now seemed clad in armor of some kind, encapsulating her body like a knight of a foreign-land that worshiped or paid reverence to the King of the Insects. From the hump-like protrusion on her back, unfurled a pair of translucent-orange wings resembling those of a dragonfly.
They fluttered to life, scattering shimmering powder as she walked towards the opening. Then, with another step, she walked off the ledge and took flight.
“Shit…” Sasuke swore at the halfway point of the slope, sliding down it in hopes of not being too late. He found those fears to be somewhat misplaced as he managed to peer through the darkness well enough without his Sharingan to see. There were two corpses and one figure standing, wreathed in a golden light hover over them.
It was Naruto, and in his right hand was a chakra blade construct in the shape of a broadsword. In his left… was a head—his head to be exact, being held up by the hair as the eyes were opened in disbelief and the mouth hanging wide. It had been severed at the neck, what looked to be roots starting to slowly lengthen from the bottom while the body next to it was slowly sprouting branches and leaves to shelter the young woman who lay beneath the tree next to it as though sleeping.
Naruto lazily tossed the head at his feet and then looked up towards him, a change lurking beneath his eyes. Then he lunged for him before Sasuke could get any words out, a golden streak suddenly filling his vision. Amidst the howling wind that he found himself a part of, the Uchiha felt himself becoming rejuvenated to an extent, no longer on the doors of death from chakra exhaustion and injury. And, as the excess energy tapered off, he could have sworn he heard Naruto talk.
“We’re even now, Sasuke,” he said. “Be by your brother’s side while he dies.”
The next thing he knew, Sasuke was back in the building he had just fled from, a grand portion of the wall in front of him missing to reveal the skyline that extended to the opposite side of the village and gave him a view of what looked to be a shooting star vanishing further into the distance. A hacking cough grabbed his attention, breaking him from the daze he had been in. The words Naruto had given him only registered when he was in mid-turn, able to see a sight that he once dreamed of and now hated.
Itachi was slouched on the floor with his back against the wall, blood leaking from several wounds that had pierced through his body by the wooden pikes embedded to keep him anchored to the wall. His eyes were droopy and half-lidded, while his head was leaning forward in a manner that made it seem like it would fall off if not attached to his body.
“Itachi!” Sasuke couldn’t help but yell as he crouched down next to him. His voice seemed to stir the last bit of strength in the elder Uchiha brother.
“S-Sasuke.” Itachi swallowed. The blood and sweat glistened off the moonlight as he struggled to keep his eyelids from closing. His right arm reached ahead of him and a pair of fingers found his calloused hands and held him tight.
“I’m here,” he said. “I’m okay, he didn’t do anything permanent. I’m healed now.”
“Good,” Itachi rasped haggardly as he forced himself to keep speaking. “D-Don’t let him get the Jinchuuriki.”
“Save your strength,” Sasuke pleaded. He was stronger now than before, Yang chakra having been infused into him. He could get down the village in practically no time before Itachi died. “Come on. Let’s get you to a medic.”
“In my ro-robe, a Will fo…for yo….”A final exhale, tired and hoarse, left his mouth. Then his eyes closed for a final time, strength leaving his hand as it went slack in Sasuke’s grip. Itachi’s head tilted to the side enough that his raven-black hair covered the left half of his face.
Sasuke heart froze as he felt the hand slip out of his grasp. “No,” he whispered, reaching down and feeling for a pulse in a desperate attempt at denying what had transpired as clear as day. “No, no, no, no!”
When he could no longer deny it, his cry echoed through the night, only to be drowned out by the flare of flames coming from just outside of the village. His brother fought and died for him here tonight. The realization stung more than anything else. The tears that rolled down his cheeks quickly turned from crystalline-clear to coppery-crimson, and pain unlike any that he’d felt before in his heart was reflected in his eyes.
The Mirror Wheel warped into a Kaleidoscope.
End Note: Beetle Chronicle updated earlier this month. Check that out too.
Naruto: Wind Monk Banishment 12 – Main
Chapter 12: Conflict within Konoha
In Danzo’s Base
Shimura Danzo had trained those in his service well. They were loyal to him, and his vision of what Konoha should be, rather than what it currently was. However, a shinobi did not live to be his age without picking up a keen survival sense.
When one of his men barged in, appearing in a submissive bow and his head down, Danzo acknowledged him to speak. He wouldn’t have dared interrupted unless it was of the utmost importance. But the moment his head was raised, a sense of danger called out to him as the man’s movements were not in line with what he had taught them. So when he reached for a scroll, Danzo had already cleared some distance with the Body Flicker technique.
It was all that saved him as ebony hellfire rippled free of the scroll.
Like the wildfire it mimicked, the flames spread quickly after incinerating the agent who had carried it. A number of good men and women were devoured by the ravenous flames as they moved with purpose, circling until they lined the walls. The room was now a ring of flames, more than eager to devour any and all that came close.
Danzo did not doubt the hold he had of those under his command. It had to have been a powerful genjutsu to turn one into a suicide bomber against him. So that, combined with the flames that lined the walls of the room to prevent escape through normal means, pointed to one person: Itachi Uchiha.
Said person appeared like there was a devil at his back, clones joining him, with the flames parting at the entrance for a moment like a curtain. Why wouldn’t they? It was a stage he had set.
Of course, Danzo’s own men would go on the offensive once they registered the threat. That’s what they were trained to do. Two of them would reach him before the rest, so they were the ones who died first as the clones split in multiple directions.
Early Sacrifice was always one of Itachi’s most used techniques, even when he was ANBU, and more so when the environment itself provided a means of dealing with his enemy. To that end, he leapt over the first assailant as he swung a blade, grabbing his shoulder as he did so. Upon landing, he threw the man—not into the ground, but into the wall as a sacrifice to the hungry flames.
Even before his death throes could start, the flames flaring as they feasted on the shinobi, Itachi’s stolen blade moved towards the second and intercepted a kunai with a parry. It then came around and was thrust straight into the mask of what appeared to be a woman judging by the hair. His vision wasn’t stellar enough to make out the features on the body, but he felt that the hair and the feminine, yet pained cry was enough to identify them.
He was briefly aware that his clones themselves managed to clear the ranks of a few. Unprofessionally as it was, he found himself thinking it was a shame. These men and women weren’t absurdly different from Itachi in the grand scheme of things.
All of them wanted what was good for the village. They were all willing to stain their hands with the blood of the innocent and guilty alike to attain it. Bodies upon bodies left in their wake, nourishing to roots of the Hidden Leaf with the spilled blood, what else could they be but tools of destruction to unleash upon those that threatened the peace of the village—even their own families.
Indeed, the only real differences they had was the fact that Itachi could see the results of what Danzo’s actions had wrought upon the world. Orochimaru, Kabuto, Pain, and Konan, all of them were the result of his manipulations. Even Itachi, to an extent, was who he became because of him, and all of them knew the horrors of the war that would be the result if he was allowed to remain so firmly entrenched in the Leaf.
These men and women who served him were too conditioned to be allowed to live. It was as simple as that. They carried his ideals and would follow in his stead with some sort of contingency plan, so they had to go no matter what. While Itachi did not delude himself into thinking he could rid the village of them all, he knew that he could cut off the head and reduce the numbers overall. That would cripple them and provide an opening for someone with cleaner hands than him to make sure it was done.
Another thing that separated them, now that he thought about it, was the fact that Itachi still had one emotion that he held just as secure as his loyalty to the village—his love for brother. His mother and father told him to look after Sasuke as he ended their lives for the good of the village, his blade cleaving through their necks as they faced death with dignity. Sasuke hadn’t taken the path he had planned towards gaining the strength to survive what being a shinobi entailed, but he gained something else in its place and that would suffice once the night was over.
Pushing the brief musing out of his mind, Itachi removed the blade from the skull that it had been sheathed in. The woman wearing the mask collapsed onto the floor. Her long hair covered her head and face as blood started to pool under her corpse. He witnessed the colors and cohesion of chakra surrounding him and moved, substituting a third assailant in his place before he could adequately resist the pull of the technique. The man ended up being shredded as the space he was once was the focal point for a dozen invisible wind blades.
Crimson eyes fixed on Danzo. Those same eyes bled an instant later, pushing chakra through them like lens. Hellfire emerged—not where Danzo had been, but where he had been going.
It was still too slow in the end. Danzo managed to avoid it barely, but a tongue of black flames lapped at his shirt and what was beneath it. Now his arm locked in the protective casing was burning, the flames threatening to spread and consume him whole if he didn’t sacrifice it.
Danzo wondered if that Itachi’s intention, despite the fact that he had kept the arm itself a secret. However, it didn’t matter in the end. If he didn’t want to be swallowed by the flames entirely, he had to cast it aside. He stuck the arm out. “Fuu!”
The Yamanaka acted with haste and drew with sickles, cleaving his master’s arm away at the shoulder to avoid the flames taking his life entirely. At the same time, an Aburame approached from the side and tried to lay his un-gloved hands on Itachi. What he hit was a Shadow Clone that dissipated into crows, which began to multiply and divide, the Scattering Thousand Crows technique at work.
With each one carrying the deadly rinkaichuu, they slammed into as many of Danzo’s men as they could. Spreading the venom, they thinned the battlefield as others fell in unholy agony while their skin turned cracked and purple. As for the Aburame, the surviving clone grabbed him before he could escape and his eyes locked with Itachi’s for a mere moment.
There was then a blur approaching Itachi from the corner of his eyes, speeding towards him with its weapon raised. Torune, under a genjutsu, intercepted it and struck what amounted to a trapped puppet, shunting his consciousness into the effigy. At the same time, Fuu ended up trapped within the Aburame’s body as the stolen blade came around towards his neck. Itachi cut off his head, simultaneously throwing a fire chakra-laced shuriken at the effigy to get rid of them both.
Then there was only one left.
Danzo, covered in sweat and clutching his bloody stump, glared at Itachi unfailingly. He had always considered him one of the most dangerous shinobi in the world. Now it had been proven, his primary forces defeated. Words were wasted, so neither spoke as the elderly shinobi tried valiantly to stave off the inevitable.
Fighting through the pain of losing his arm, he gathered the wind-converted chakra in his lungs and spat it out in deadly, thin streams. They cut through the scattering of crows like blades, cleaving them away with ease as they approached him. His efforts were valiant for a man befitting his age, his belief driving him where a normal man’s body would submit.
It was also ultimately futile, his fate sealed as a pair of hands came in from beneath the surface of the hard ground that rippled like water. The earth chakra soaking it allowed the clone to move under it with ease, and so when they pulled down and the chakra was pulled along with it, his feet were anchored to the ground so that he couldn’t escape.
Missing an arm, his legs useless, chakra being sapped from stopping the loss of blood—there was no victory to be had. But, at the very least, he could take his enemy with him into death. With his remaining hand, Danzo pulled out a kunai and slipped it deftly between his ribs and into his heart, ending his life.
The fresh corpse then gave birth to a black void as the cessation of his beating heart triggered the death seal that he had laid upon himself. The darkness drew in whatever wasn’t anchored to the ground—corpses, the black flames, rubble—everything but Itachi himself, who clung to the ground with chakra on his feet. The sphere devoid of light expanded, eating away at the surroundings entirely, until soon everything was swallowed into the yawning maw that even consumed itself in the end.
Without anything left alive, silence loomed in the room. From the remnants of the floor that had been smoothed into a curve, the stone slowly rippled. Itachi slowly surfaced, panting as he did so with sweat covering his brow. Once he was pulled out of the ground completely, he collapsed onto his knees and a deathly cough forced itself from his throat. Crimson painted the floor, blood seeping through his fingers in cascading drops that carried a little bit of his life in every one.
A little longer, he thought. Trembling hands reached for a Soldier’s Pill nestled within the pocket of his pants. Another coughing fit made it slip from his grasp, the pill rolling down the gentle slope of the floor. Itachi traced the sound of it rolling, unable to see the small pill through the cloudy veils shrouding his eyes, and ran his hands across the surface until he grasped it. He thrust it into his mouth and chewed.
He forced himself up to his feet as he felt the lean fat, or what little his sickly body could hold onto, burned itself up for the sake of chakra. Even so, he swayed to the silent rhythm of his heart that struggled to hold out. Just a little longer….
He staggered forward, step-by-step. There was no stopping this close to his goal. He only needed to last just a little longer. So, regardless of the pain, he forced himself to keep going….
It was quiet on the streets of Konoha, most of the laborers and civilians turning in for the night to prepare for the next day. The silence and soft lights had a pleasant ambiance about them, more so when you were sailing through the air. The moment of weightlessness during the lull mid-jump, only to be suddenly fall back to earth and have your stomach drop in thrill, was relaxing once you were used to it.
Sasuke took more care than usual as he bound over the rooftops, rising and falling into the kaleidoscope of colors and the night air. He focused on height rather that distance, centering the jumps so that they were well-balanced and not as disorienting as they could be. Not that his date would notice, given the experience itself was something that few civilians had the luxury of relishing.
Still, Ayame seemed to enjoy it as she laughed with each movement, being carried bridal-style over the rooftops by her beau. Their date had gone swimmingly, to the extent that her face was flushed beneath the cowl that was fixed over her head. At the same time, Sasuke found himself enjoying this moment, taking pleasure in something that had become basic for him the moment he learned how to mold chakra. It wasn’t flight, but it was close enough.
When they reached the alley next to her home, Sasuke skirted along the wall to slow the fall and landed softly. He gently let her down between the shadows of the two buildings. There was little chance of someone spotting them if he had set her down on her front porch, but better safe than sorry should somehow it got wind to fangirls.
“Well, that was exciting!” Ayame clasped her hands together as she took a deep breath, attempting to calm her pounding heart. “I knew you wouldn’t drop me, but my heart’s still racing!”
“You get used to it,” Sasuke said, before thinking about it for a moment and then going back on it. “Well, for someone in my line of work, anyway.”
“Ah-hem,” came from above them. They looked up to see Teuchi looking down on them from a window, holding up a clock. “You’re late.”
“It was only five minutes, Dad,” Ayame said. “Honestly, I’m a grown woman. I shouldn’t have a curfew…”
Teuchi grumbled beneath his breath about ‘shinobi’ and ‘daughters’ before retreating into the window, closing it behind him. Ayame turned to Sasuke and planted a gentle kiss on his lips, her softness spreading honeyed warmth throughout his body. When she pulled back, he was tempted to grab her and hold her in place, taking more of her for himself. But, alas, he was a gentleman…
At least outside of the genjutsu, anyway. Ayame had some surprisingly kinky fetishes. Most of them involved bondage. Yes, Jiraiya was probably to blame—Sasuke had seen her with the orange-books more than once, even if he never said anything.
“Until the next time,” he said, watching her as she exited the alley. Her door was to the right of it. “I’ll put in some more practice so that I can get better at manipulating the displacement of time.”
She turned back to him and smiled, her brown-eyes dancing at the thought. “See you then, Sasuke.”
Once the door was closed and he picked up the sound of the lock clicking, Sasuke yawned. He wasn’t so much physically tired, but genjutsu wasn’t his specialty. Sharingan or not, it was taxing on his mind compared to raining fire and stabbing with lightning. Still, totally worth it.
Taking the street back to his district, Sasuke stared up into the vast night sky that seemed to twinkle with stars in thought of the next time. That abruptly ended the moment he heard Kiba’s intoxicated slurs of elation and looked to see that the Inuzuka was slouched on his hound, twirling his arm above his head in victory. More than once he nearly fell, causing Akamaru to readjust to keep him up. The dog only shook his head in embarrassment.
“Well, sounds like someone had a good night,” Sasuke said as they crossed paths.
Kiba threw his arm around his neck and pulled him in close. “L-listen to this, man! I gotta tell ya something!”
“Ugh!” Sasuke cringed at the alcohol lacing his breath, stinging his eyes and nostrils. “Kiba, you have got to learn the meaning of the word moderation. How many bottles did you empty out?”
Kiba’s response to that was to tighten his grip around Sasuke’s neck. “Listen man, Hinata kissed me tonight! On the lips!”
Sasuke scoffed. “So you managed to get past the gates of the Hyuuga Clan compound, reach her room, and then lock lips with her while smelling like a distillery?”
Kiba poked him in the chest, a scowl on his face. “I’m serious. I passed her on the street a few minutes ago.”
Sasuke’s expression tightened at that. Hinata was out and about? Sure, there was a chance that he was only rambling drunk, but to be safe he turned to the ninja hound. “Akamaru, is he telling the truth?”
The ninja hound gave an affirmative bark and nod.
Sasuke swore as he broke the hold Kiba had on him, ignoring his groan as he landed on the ground, and then sprinted down the street as fast as he could. Chakra laced his legs, arms, and lungs, vitalizing them to preternatural limits as he leapt onto a lamp post and then a building to get airborne. He had to get back to the Senju Complex as soon as possible.
While he didn’t know how she had gotten out of her home, he knew that she was unstable and smart enough to figure out where Naruto was. There was little doubt that was her objective, since it was much the same when he was obsessed with killing Itachi. After everything that had happened, after losing her position as a kunoichi and turned against her comrades, that was the only reasons she could have for stepping out of her clan’s compound at this time of night.
He reached the edge of the territory of the Senju Complex. It was a wooded area somewhat separated from the surrounding buildings and built on a long slope of land. Legend has it that the trees in it were personally grown by Hashirama Senju himself.
Sasuke frowned as he entered the woodlands without complications. There should have been ANBU stationed around key-points, to prevent anyone from entering that wasn’t supposed to. Yet, Sasuke found none to bar his path as he advanced towards the large building despite the fact that even he shouldn’t be able to outside his scheduled time.
That was another red flag, and his worry only compounded. Worse, he realized that he had spent chakra that could have been useful with Ayame and neglected to carry a weapon. Sure, he could have snuck one on him while he was with Ayame, but he hadn’t wanted too, nor thought he would actually need it.
The cynic in him couldn’t help but wonder why she couldn’t do this some other night as he leapt from branch to branch, skipping the stone-stairs that made up the regular path…
Hinata got into the building without any problems, stalking along the hallway with ease as she made her way to the room where the Kyuubi slept. Her eyes hadn’t picked up anyone within it, and the ANBU that she had seen guarding it in the distance were nowhere to be found. As suspicious as that was, she couldn’t turn back anymore so it didn’t matter. Besides, she didn’t plan on surviving past the night anyway.
Opening the door at the end of the hallway, she came across the sight of the Kyuubi draped in sheets on a bed. Its chest rose and fell at a steady rate, unconscious and ignorant of the world around it. Being cared for like this, she found it to be mocking not only her, but the others who lived in the village.
After all the destruction it had wrought all those years ago, it got to lay down in comfort while under the protection of the village it had victimized. After toying with her heart and mind, it got to enjoy peaceful slumber without its dreams haunting it like hers did. She couldn’t even recall a time when the dreams hadn’t tormented her—the mockery of the Kyuubi, the harsh words of the Council, both constantly playing over in her mind with no end.
Well, no more. She had already slain her personal demons, now it was time to slay the one laying before her.
Standing over it, Hinata’s upraised palm was wreathed in the soft glow of pale blue chakra. The blood vessels on the side of her eyes bulged as chakra flowed into them to make out the chakra network entwined around its heart. The hand dropped down—
Glass broke to the rear of her. Then her wrist was caught by a solid bulwark in the form of a forearm. Wood splintered and shattered, crashing from above to the grass outside, beneath the tree that Sasuke had pulled a substitution from using his chakra to swap places with the nearby dresser. His other hand was cloaked in lightning, the glare of its angry light bolstering the crimson of his Sharingan.
Hinata leapt back to the room entrance before the strike could run her through, but she noted that it was half-hearted and he didn’t follow her. Her suspicions that it was a warning were confirmed when Sasuke stood over the sleeping Kyuubi like sentry, panting. His chakra reserves weren’t high, and there were no weapons on him.
He clearly hadn’t expected her appearance from what she could tell, so the question remained how he knew she would be here when she hadn’t seen him earlier… Then she decided it didn’t matter and thrust her hand out for a long-ranged attack, sending raw chakra across the distance as a lion’s head with its fangs bared.
He didn’t dodge it. If he did the Kyuubi would have take the full brunt of the attack and died. But so strong was the deceptive hold that the Kyuubi had on the Uchiha that he willingly took the attack and endured it, bringing his chakra to the front in an effort to ward away hers. It was only successful enough to stop it from being fatal to him, but the blood leaking from the corner of his mouth and the irregularity of his heartbeat made it clear he wouldn’t survive another one.
“I pity you,” she told him, her heart feeling somewhat heavy as she watched him struggle with heaving breaths. The chakra coils that connected to his lungs were damaged. It would take time to heal, even with a medic-nin, but he could still remain on active-duty afterwards. “The hold the Kyuubi has on you is so strong that you can’t even see what’s right in front of you.”
“That should—” A cough added a splatter of blood to the wooden floor, staining it red in the moonlight spilling into the room. “That should be my line. You’re making a mistake that you can’t come back from, Hinata.”
“You speak as though there was anywhere to go back to.”Hinata stared at him unflinchingly, chakra radiating from her palm in preparation for another strike. “I don’t wish to hurt you, but I’ve come too far to let anyone stop me. I have no home, and no family—I’ve given it all up to ensure the Kyuubi dies.”
It was at that moment that Sasuke realized that she had reached the point where he had, only there was no saving her. Even if he restrained her, which wasn’t feasible at this point and thinking otherwise was just foolish, Tsunade would have her killed for this. She had been very clear on that.
Sasuke couldn’t help but think that when he had left the village Naruto came to the same conclusion. He’d attacked with intent to kill, betrayed his village, and was willing to give it all away for the sake of killing his brother. Yet, somehow, Naruto managed to save him when he should have been locked away or killed.
Could Sasuke do the same for her that the old Naruto would have? It would depend on how things went from here. “H—” A heaving cough left his mouth. “H-how did you get past the ANBU?”
“There were no ANBU when I arrived,” she said, sincerely at that. “They all disappeared by the time I got close enough, though I’m not sure where.”
Sasuke coughed again, more violently at that. Sending chakra to his lungs hurt the most, but his chest was killing him softly with just words. “ANBU don’t just vanish like that. It smells like a trap. Someone’s playing you, Hinata. They wanted you to get here for some reason.”
“That would be my doing,” said a voice from above. They looked up to see a man standing on the ceiling, upside down, donning the cloak of Akatsuki and a spiral mask that centered on a single eye… a Sharingan eye. “I was going to pin this on Danzo, but think of the chaos and unrest that would befall the village if it seemed like the renegade Hyuuga managed to kill the Jinchuuriki, as well as the last Uchiha, before taking her own life.”
“Who the hell are you?” Sasuke said, staring into the Sharingan with his own spinning in place. It hurt, but rage managed to make the pain tolerable. Somehow, he doubted this man had been gifted his eye like Kakashi. “And why do you have that eye!?”
“Who am I?” Space twisted, swallowing the masked figure whole. His presence, his chakra, everything about him utterly vanished. Then space untwisted next to Sasuke, putting the masked man face-to-face with him. “That’s not really something a dead man needs to know, is it?”
Lighting crackled to life, sweeping in an arch to take off the masked man’s head. It sailed through the man’s head with no resistance, leaving him twisting as his eyes registered the movement of the other hand. Sasuke’s leg snapped up, coming around as he threw his entire body into the twist and caught the arm holding a wooden stake at the crook of the elbow.
The resistance in it vanished, leaving the ghostly arm coming up for his head. Theoretically speaking, if he couldn’t touch the man the opposite should have been true. Logically speaking, Sasuke dodged as the stake was driven into the bedpost.
And then wooden floor beneath him began to ripple as he set foot on the ground, wooden pikes emerging from below in an attempt to skewer him. It was move or die again, forcing him to leap up, only for the masked man to lash out with his foot and catch the ribs with a crack while it sent him skirting the floor. He barely managed to roll out of the way as more wooden pikes shot up, tearing into his shirt and scraping the flesh to draw blood from his side as he crouched back against the wall and clutched where the kick had been.
Cracked, but not broken. Still, it hurt like a bitch. It would slow him down, and they both knew it.
At the same time, the masked man thrust his other hand out towards the Hyuuga. She had been circling around, attempting to get at Naruto while their backs were turned. The ebony spear made of wood flew out to pierce Hinata’s abdomen. She moved to dodge it, but the wood fractured and then split into several spears, one of which succeeded in nailing her to the wall with a short, pained scream.
With one incapacitated, blood seeping from the wound as she tried to futilely wrench it free, only for pain to make her cry out again, and the other struggling to his feet while coping with internal damage, the masked man decided to grab what he came for before something unexpected happened. Sure, he made a gambit of it when the Hyuuga came and cleared a path for her, but the Uchiha was unexpected, even if he decided to spin it to murder-suicide. There was no telling if Sasuke alerted someone else on the way up, so he reached for the sleeping prize all three were fighting over.
Sasuke forced himself up, the light of the Chidori glaring off his face and his scrunched and feral expression as tore through the wooden pikes that hindered him. Charred splinters scattered, and he lunged forward, but he could tell he wouldn’t make it in time before Naruto was sucked into that eye vortex. He could see the chakra already starting to twist in place, reaching out like hungry tendrils as it expanded the space it would reach.
At the same time, a burnt-orange chakra slowly began to bleed from Naruto’s tenketsu. His muscles slightly twitched in the process. He was waking up it seemed, but Sasuke doubted he would be in a position to do anything if he was sucked into that mask.
In the end, it didn’t matter. The vortex was banished as the hellfire drew a line between him and Naruto, catching the sleeve of the cloak on fire as the masked man took a step back. He tore away the sleeve and tossed it aside. Rage seethed in the masked man’s throat, heard by all as three Sharingan eyes were drawn above, to the window where pale moonlight was cast around a daunting figure draped in the cloak of black and red clouds.
“Itachi,” Sasuke choked out. “Why are you here?”
The man in question didn’t speak. Instead, he Body Flickered next to Naruto, which gave Sasuke pause and stilled his breath. It wasn’t that far of a stretch, they were part of the same organization judging by the cloak. He was siding against him, despite claiming that he was still Itachi of the Leaf when they last met.
Sasuke’s heart dropped… and then steeled. He wouldn’t win against them both. But, at the very least, if Naruto was waking up he could maybe get him away long enough for him to flee.
Itachi moved. In a single and fluid motion, he grabbed and unceremoniously flung the sleeping Jinchuuriki towards his younger brother. The abruptness of it nearly caught Sasuke off-guard, but he dispersed the lightning to grab Naruto with both hands, skidding back in the process. He winced as his body throbbing in pain, but that didn’t matter.
Not now that the masked man was in front of him in the span of a heartbeat later, reaching for them both. Only the fact that his brother took his place with a Substitution saved them, the cold steel of a sword caked in dried blood at the masked man’s throat. It would have taken his head if a thick bark hadn’t enveloped his neck, stopping the blade.
“What is the meaning of this, Itachi?” the masked man growled, eye narrowed. “Are you betraying Akatsuki?”
“Run.” Itachi ordered. Not to the masked man, but to his brother. Then his stolen sword danced its lethal danced in an effort to buy time, fire-chakra lacing it to make sure that bark didn’t hinder him a second time. Sasuke took the chance to leap out of the window he broke earlier with Naruto in hand, leaving the confines of the building as the hellfire spread slowly to soon turn it into oven.
“Zetsu,” the masked man said, adding nothing further as wood twisted from a palm with a sharpened tip. The shadows answered him, wood rippling as the assimilated being traversed through the boards of the house and into the woodland to chase its prey. With a weapon in hand, the masked man moved to kill the traitor with no other words between them.
In the midst of their clash, neither paid mind to the fact that the Hyuuga was no longer where she had been left, or that the back of the wall she had been pinned to had been blown apart. Blood marked the trail that lead into the woodlands….