Naruto: Wind Monk Banishment 15 (Main)
Chapter 15: Selfish Desires
Tsunade nursed the mother of all headaches—no. No, a headache was too weak of a word. She nursed the mother of all migraines as she briskly walked through the corridors. She had to take her leave of that trip to meet the Wind Daimyo when a summoning had reached her with a short message containing six words:
Agents dead. Fox missing. Red Dawn.
Jiraiya could handle the meeting. That was the second worse combination of words she could have gotten in a non-coded, non-secure message. The worst would have been: Village destroyed.
Now she walked towards the medical room of the Anbu detainment facility, separate from that of the hospital because of the nature of both the work and those brought in, being briefed by one of her Anbu that had been on the scene. She supposed that was the first of the bad news—several key agents and assets were missing, including Naruto.
The second of the bad news was that Sasuke Uchiha had been on the scene, cradling his brother’s corpse while holding a hand over his eyes. They had to knock him out to get him away from her half-burned down home and he was currently in the medical room, recovering from what looked to be severe chakra exhaustion and moderate damage to the chakra system—consistent with that of a Gentle Fist-related injury. The corpse was in the morgue, just waiting to be dealt with by her.
The third was that the corpse of Hinata Hyuuga was found near the base of wooded lands her ancestral home was perched on, right around the time that her younger sister happened to have stumbled upon the corpses of several of their clan’s elders. Though an investigation wasn’t really needed since the suspect was obvious, they would carry one out regardless if asked out of obligation—though she suspected they probably wanted to keep that quiet.
The on-spot forensic investigation of Hinata Hyuuga revealed that she had more than one severe wound, with fragments of some kind of wood splinters found within them. They would need to be put under the microscope, but the fatal strike was the one done to her heart with extreme accuracy, possibly up-close. Yet her body was laid down neatly judging from the posture they found her in, rather than left to crumple to the ground, and no fragments of wood were found there.
Several facts were clear from that much alone: There had been at least three parties involved in the conflict, one of whom possessed expert intelligence-gathering and infiltration techniques considering she kept the location locked down and guarded by Anbu. Hinata clearly snapped and attacked Sasuke. And Naruto had very likely been taken in the confusion.
Entering the room, guarded by two Anbu on the outside and one on the inside, she bypassed them to find that Sasuke was awake. He wasn’t moving, only staring down at his hands. Nor was he responding to the questions being asked.
“Uchiha,” she said firmly. It got his attention as he turned the dull black eyes towards her. Oh she remembered having those after Dan died right in front of her eyes. Her voice was a little softer this time. “You weren’t supposed to be at the scene, so can you explain what happened before I need to get a member of T & I involved?”
He took a deep breath and nodded. The Anbu inside took that as a cue to start the audio recorder. “… I was on my way home after an evening out with my current relationship partner when I came across Kiba Inuzuka. He was inebriated, being carried on his Ninja Hound, Akamaru. He mentioned having seen Hinata Hyuuga outside of the manor, despite her being under House Arrest. After confirming it with Akamaru, I went towards the location.”
He continued on after that, droning lifelessly. His words painted a vivid, ugly picture as he recounted Hinata and her claims of not encountering the Anbu, meaning they had been killed well before she arrived, as well as the culprit responsible for planning on framing them for the death of Naruto while spiriting him away having both a Sharingan and Wood Release—two things that should have never been mixed given they belonged to opposing clans, and weren’t supposed to even exist anymore outside of three individuals.
The only good news was that Naruto had apparently woken up. But he was gone and possibly had been taken outside of the village—though the sheer destruction showed there had been a brief fight. There was a chance he might have gotten away, but they couldn’t bet on that given his body should have been overtaxed from the lack of motion while he was comatose.
“Show me your eyes,” she ordered, after hearing his description of the burning he felt in them at the end. He looked up and the black pupils were dyed red as the pattern came to the forefront. It reminded her of a Scarlet Trumpet in bloom. “Don’t use them until you’ve recovered. We’ll handle the investigation into what you’ve told us discreetly for now.”
“Itachi said he left a will for me in his robes,” Sasuke said softly as his eyes went back to their dark tone.
“…I’ll have it brought up shortly,” she assured him, before turning and walking out the room. There was work to be done—starting with getting this information to Jiraiya.
Fuu’s chakra-wings worked themselves at a steady, rhythmic beat as she crossed the cliffs that nestled far into Wind Country, far out of the way of most travel caravans and well-off the beaten path. The travel-bag slung over her shoulder drifted as a hot wind blew, and sweat dotted her forehead as the sun glared at her from above. The only shielding she had from its rays searing her caramel-toned skin was the wrap around her lime-green hair and the cloak that she slit two opening into so that her wings could work without compromising it.
Past the cliffs were desert grasslands that spread from the bottom of the craggy slope onwards, with bunches of grass that seemed as dust-colored as the ground surrounding it, only sparse outcroppings of bright green flora and twisted trees. A pack of coyotes lounging around lifted their heads when her shadow passed over them, as if contemplating to give chase, only to lie back down.
A pulse of chakra connected her with the insects that span the scope of her tenet’s understanding, instantly bringing them under the Beetle King’s thrall. While the Tailed-Beast focused on managing the information, she stopped and lowered herself to the ground beneath a tree that’s canopy fanned open like an umbrella. She sat down, giving herself a breather, and slaked her thirst with the canteen while she waited for a bit.
The reason she was traveling so far out was because word had reached her that Naruto had gotten away from the village by Kanna. It was the day after she had spent hours searching for that black creature to no avail, so they had to assume it fled. Whatever her admitted feelings towards the young Wind Daimyo were, she couldn’t pass up a chance to check up on Naruto, so here she was.
Sweat that cascaded from her forehead down to her orange-eyes stung, forcing her to wipe it away, when the insects picked something up. A lizard half the length of her body lay still within something dark, one of many that a few flies felt the bead-like skin with their legs. The tang of blood reached her from the mosquitoes that had laid claim to an opened wound. It could be a clue, given the Ferrets ate meat.
Fuu put the canteen away and then took back to the air towards it, just over two minutes away. When she arrived at the spot, something cutting through the air quickly reached the Beetle King through the gathering of smaller gnats and flies it had been amassing. The wings stalled briefly before she could be shot through the heart with an arrow that churned the air as it continued upwards and then fluttered to life again.
She looked down to see a larger-than-average ferret with a camouflaged bandana on its head, and what looked to be stalk of some kind in its mouth. It was crouched low in a spaced mound of taller grass, reaching back for another arrow from its quiver. She waved her hands and yelled out before it could nock another arrow, causing it to squint its eyes and then realized its mistake. It lowered the arrow into the quiver on its back and then pulled itself out of cover.
Fuu dropped low and frowned. That arrow had Wind chakra layered on the tip. It could have killed her. “What’s the big idea?”
“Sorry about that,” the male ferret said in a gruff voice as he pulled out a sack. The flies and mosquitoes she had been tracking were in it. The ferret had caught a bunch of desert lizards, some big and some small. “I thought you were a big bird. You take good pickings where you can get them, and we don’t get a lot of humans out here.”
“I bet….” She sighed. “I’m looking for the Ferret Village. They should be expecting me.”
“That right?” His nose twitched and his head came to a stop at her bag. “I smell something good there. Maybe a nibble will spark my memory.”
Fuu reached into her bag and then opened a smaller pouch within to pluck out two chunks of dried meat snacks. They were for Pace, but there were more than enough to share. The ferret plucked it out of her hands, pulled out a small jar it kept its it quiver, and dipped the meat into the sauce inside of it before taking a bite while Fuu crossed her arms and tapped her feet.
“Mmmm…” The ferret smacked its lips when it was done. “Quality meat. Not as stringy.”
“Satisfied?” she asked.
“Mm-hmm.” He put the jar back into the quiver and twisted around in a southwest direction. “Head towards an outcropping that way and you’ll find what you’re looking for. I’d advise walking when you get closer. Sometimes the hawks get cocky and try snatch up kits, so the others are liable to shoot more than once.”
Fuu took that to heart and kept low to the ground as she renewed her flight over the grassland, eventually coming along what seemed to be a large section of grassland that had been upturned to expose bare soil, surrounded by a ring of pounded dirt upon that reminded Fuu of a pathway and several mounds that had hobs and jills with bows similar to the one that pointed the path to her.
She halted her flight and started to walk, only for a small blur to rush towards her before she could reach the guard mounds. She went onto her guard until it leapt towards her face and decelerated, allowing her to make out what was in the blur. It was Pace.
“Boss Lady, you made it!” Pace chirped as he leapt onto her shoulder and started licking her face. “I’m so happy to see you!”
A warm smile came across her lips and she found herself laughing at the tickling sensation of his tiny tongue against her cheek. She crouched down and set him onto the ground, running her palm over the top of his head. “I get that you’re happy, but you shouldn’t be so jumpy.”
“I can’t help it!” He was so excited that he bouncing around, hopping sideways, leaping around, and bumping into her leg. “I’ve been practicing my Swift Release since I got caught and couldn’t help you guys the last time. It makes me jumpy.”
“You have a Bloodline Limit?” He nodded his head frantically. “I didn’t know that.”
“All of us ferrets have quick metabolisms because we have a natural inclination to Yang chakra, which is why we eat a lot when we have to do stuff and sleep most of the day unless you summon us,” he explained. “But some of us are born with strong ties to Wind chakra too rather than having to learn how to use it, so when we focus on them together we can go faster than the others and usually become messengers. Race is the fastest, but I’m going to learn how to use it to fight by practicing a lot, so I can help you guys next time…”
He trailed off as he sniffed the air and looked to her bag. “Only it makes me hungry too, so can I—”
“They’re for you in the first place.” She pulled out the pouch of meat snacks and set them down for him. “This is from both me and Kanna, as thanks for your help in getting Naruto to safety. We were both very happy to hear it.”
“Thanks!” He nuzzled her hands and then sat down to start eating—
—then there was another blur and the bag was gone. Pace’s head swiveled around until his eyes fell onto a ferret roughly twice his size, with a white pelage covered in black stripes. It plucked one of the meaty treats out of the bag and nibbled on it in delight.
“Give those back, Dash!” Pace demanded, making a soft squeaking noise as the hob swallowed it and licked his lips. “Those are mine! She said it! You heard her!”
“Hehehe,tooslowbro.Gottagofast!” said the very hyper hob before he grabbed the bag between his teeth and then took off in another blur.
“I said give it back!” Pace promptly crouched low, the wind around him swirling as a golden hue coated his pelage. “Giveit!Giveit!Giveit!”
Fuu had a small smile on her face as she watched him zip off into the distance after the other ferret, using the pounded dirt that rimmed the mounds as a racing track. If she had to guess, the rapid speech was due to being in that speedy state. It was cute, but he didn’t tell her where Naruto was.
After she got crossed the guard mounds, she reached down into her chakra reserves and surged it out in the form of a wave to connect to the insects within the village. She had to practice on her own rather than allowing Choumei to shoulder everything for her. It would be good practice for when she began recruiting.
There were flying insects here that she could link to, and when the wave went past them it marked them. More chakra followed, linking them like invisible threads that connected to her optic nerves and ears. She then set them to work, looking through their eyes with the Insect Spying technique in search of Naruto.
The ferrets built their homes into the smaller mounds, the entrances to them like caves that faced opposite the rising sun. They were cool inside and dark, but the mosquitoes that laid their eggs in the nearby water sources could track the different exhales of each one. The net closed and found him in one of the ones in the back.
She slipped in through the makeshift door and found him sleeping on bedding made of dried grass bundled into cloth. He looked peaceful and in good health, which was a relief considering the last time she had seen him had been at the ruins of what was supposed to be his village. She set down her bag on the ground and then lay down next to him, feeling his warmth next to her.
Fuu hesitated to take his hand though. A part of her was scared he wouldn’t accept what she told him about what she had been like and what she wanted. But there was no point in hiding it from him and giving birth to another shadow. So she grasped his hand with both of hers, holding it tight as she pressed to her head, and then she sank her consciousness into it and joined his mindscape with Choumei.
What she found was a dark-haired man writing on what looked to be a blackboard while the fox watched on. The fox, lounging like a large house pet, told him to turn around. He did, giving her a view of violet eyes and a smile that was decidedly Naruto’s. “Fuu!”
“Naruto!” She embraced him as he rushed to do the same to her. “What happened to you?”
“Ah.” He pulled back and ran his hands through the dark hair. “My features have been like that since I came to terms with my darker-half. It’s… I guess proof I didn’t just accept what my dark-half was saying was true, I embraced it. The desires that I kept hidden away haven’t overtaken me because I’ve took them as part of what I want. I’m simply moving in-tune with them in a way that’s constructive to my thoughts… does it look weird?”
“It’s not a bad look. As long as it’s still you, that’s what counts.” She tilted her head and looked over his shoulder to the board. There was an unfamiliar design on it. “Are you working on a new seal?”
“Not just a seal.” He walked back over to the board and tapped it. “A Grand Seal, Fuu. This is going to be my greatest seal ever. I’m working on refining the design before I come up with a cipher, and it’s not going well so far. I think this is the twelfth—”
“Fifteenth,” Kurama corrected lazily.
“—fifteenth design that I came up with that’s insufficient for the task,” he amended, shaking his head. “Hours spent on each of them, only to end up at a dead-end. If I ever meet someone who says seal design is easy, I’ll punch them in the mouth for lying horribly.”
“Well, what’s it going to do?”
“Stop everyone from using chakra and bring an end to the age of Shinobi once and for all.”
Fuu froze when she heard that. He had said it so casually, yet she couldn’t find the undertone that would label it as a joke. “Come again?”
“When I merged with my darker-half, I came to an understanding. The system established since the Sage of the Six Paths time is flawed, broken in so many ways that any effort to patch it will just be delaying the inevitable.” He sighed. “I could give you an excuse, saying it’s only a matter of time before someone snaps and develops some kind of super-destructive technique that threatens the world, but the truth is that I want it gone for all the trouble it’s given me. So I’m getting rid of it.”
She… could understand that. Fuu could understand taking your problems out on others very well. But it didn’t sound right coming from him. “But what will happen to everyone without it? Every major village uses it to some level, and not to mention medic-nins. What about them?”
“We don’t live in a chakra-dependant vacuum, Fuu,” Naruto said. “We live in a big world, I learned that much traveling when I was younger, but the only one we know is those of the Elemental Nations where chakra is prevalent. If I just stop with etching the seals on them, they’d go and conquer some other place to keep living their lives like they’ve grown used to. The loss of chakra over the years will force them to either adapt to a life without it or be ground into dust. If they can’t handle the change, then that’s unfortunate.”
Her eyes narrowed slightly. “But shinobi aren’t the only ones who use it,” she pointed out. “What about Insect Summonings and the Ferrets? Pace is working hard to help us.”
“Sapient animals can use chakra, and it can be used as a catalyst in their formation, but they don’t need it to exist,” Kurama vouched. “They gained their sapience from the third source that acts as the wellsprings of life within the earth—evolutionary oddities compared to the norm.”
“Even if that wasn’t the case, I’ve made my peace with the fact that all plans have unexpected casualties,” Naruto said firmly. “If it turns out to be detrimental to their intelligence, I’ll work in a way to allow them to maintain it once everything is in place. I owe them that much, but I won’t stop because of just that.”
Fuu was lost for words for a moment and looked to her Tailed-Beast for a clue on how to handle this, but Choumei gave the equivalent of a shrug. When she accepted her darker-half, she just acknowledged everything she was holding back. Did merging with his flip a switch of some kind?
She rubbed her forehead and then tried again. “How?” she asked desperately. “How would that work?”
“Essentially, it’s going to create an inhibitor on a spiritual level that will make it difficult to meld spiritual and physical energy together over time,” Naruto said. “Chakra is made of a balance of the two, so I’m going to artificially disturb that balance. Over time, it’ll strengthen until it becomes virtually impossible to mix them as long as they live on the planet—like water and oil.”
“And you don’t think someone is going to try and stop you?”
“Which is why I won’t tell anyone who doesn’t need to know,” he said. “Of course, there’s also the chance that someone could figure it out, but I won’t talk. I suppose they could kill and resurrect me with something like the Impure World Resurrection to compel me into it… I’d really rather not etch a seal into my spiritual body so that upon death my soul goes into the Death God like my father did to take half of Kurama’s chakra, but it might be on the table.”
“I want that back, by the way,” Kurama chimed in.
“And I’ll get on that later,” Naruto said. “Since the technique is basically a summoning to bring forth the spirit bound to a mask brought over and set into a temple when Mito Uzumaki moved to what would become Konoha, I can get to them if it’s still there.”
“…Naruto,” Fuu said cautiously, after a good long pause in thought. “I want you to think carefully about what you’ve told me. You just explained to me that you intend to carve seals into several places across the world, drain people of their chakra—”
“I’m just stopping them from producing it in the first place and returning them to the state they were before the Sage of Sixth Paths taught them how to link their spiritual energy to other energy sources,” he corrected. “Draining chakra on that scale would kill them, and I’m not aiming for extinction of the human race.”
“—and then potentially sealing your soul into the stomach of a Death God for all eternity just to make sure you aren’t made to undo it after death,” she finished.
“I know how it sounds, but it’s all I got for the moment,” Naruto said in a tone meant to placate her. “What I want is get rid of a system that was broken from the start. No, I have to do it, but I only know Seals so it’s all I can do. If more options become available over time then I’ll work them into the fold—as long as the system is torn up from its roots.”
“Then you need more people on this,” Fuu stated. “I can think of a lot of ways this can go wrong with just you personally, not including the fallout or screwing over our friends.”
“Well, I can’t tell Gaara any of this because he’d try and stop me,” Naruto said. “He’s the Kazekage—a good one that brought his village back from the brink that led them to betray the Leaf in the first place. His deepest desire was to be accepted, and he got it. But if he learns of my plans, he’ll try to reason with me for the good of the village he’s taken as his domain and the people he cares about.”
“And you won’t listen?” she guessed. “So he’ll be forced into stopping you personally and you’ll fight.”
Naruto looked down at his feet, rustled his dark-hair, and sighed. “If he kills me, it’ll be the same as when his Uncle got killed and it’ll drive him mad again. Likewise, I don’t want to have to kill Gaara, or risk him spreading it to the other villages and starting a manhunt for me before I can get it in place and it’s too late to matter. That’s why I’m nipping the problem in the bud by keeping him in the dark and lying to him if I have to—I don’t want it to come to that with someone I care about, because it will force two of the things I want into conflict.”
“Then why are you telling me all this?” she asked.
His eyes softened. “Because you can understand me on a level closer to the surface, even if you don’t agree. I can feel it. We both suffered because of the system, so it’s natural that we want to do something about it. We tried to get away, and they chased us. They’ll keep chasing us because that’s what the system has taught them—chakra is power, and who has more than a Jinchuuriki and a Tailed-Beast?”
The logic was sound, if a bit extreme. And… damn, she could understand why he’d reach that point after everything. But, strictly speaking, it went against what she had planned—chakra was essential as a means of power, like he had said.
She ruminated silently as he watched her. It was clear from how he spoke he was firm in his convictions. No hesitation in what he wanted, no doubt in what he would do to reach that point. However, if the ends were set then it’s the means that she could do something about to influence that.
“I don’t object to the end goal of your plan,” she told him. “But some parts of it go against what I want. If you’re willing to deal with those then I’ll help you, because it’s what I want as well and the way to get it.”
“Okay.” He clapped his hands together. “Name them.”
“The first is that you’re going to change that part about shunting your soul into the stomach of a Death God,” she ordered. “I’m not letting you damn yourself for eternity just to stop yourself from being summoned on the chance that someone might believe you’re responsible for this. I’ll put up with a lot of things, but that crosses the line.”
“Technically, I only said there’s a chance that it would be—”
Her tone was firmer this time. “Change it.”
“—it’s changed. Next?”
“The second is that you put in something that will allow certain individuals to produce chakra, like the Ferrets and my Insects.” The thought of Pace trying so hard only to have it taken away by one of the very people he wanted to protect didn’t sit well with her. “You’re right on the system being broken and that it should be torn apart, but you haven’t said anything about what would take its place. If we limit who can access it, we can use then to give structure to the world and focus them under a proper leader.”
“Maybe…” Naruto scratched his chin. “But there’s an issue with that.”
“They’re only mortal,” he said. “They’ll make mistakes, and can be swayed by emotion. Even if you have someone who is the greatest and kindest person in the world calling the shots, what happens when they die and someone worse takes their place?”
“You mean like our Pops?” Choumei guessed.
Naruto nodded. “Kurama’s been giving me insight into him since I’ve decided on what I was going to do. He intended to for people to link their hearts on a spiritual level, essentially allowing everyone to empathize in order to stop warring around… except the moment he died, things got worse. The fighting continued on a greater scale, and both his descendants turned on all of you—one who had a god-complex and the other who sold you off to different villages to barter for peace that failed given the number of wars we’ve had.”
She guessed he was referring to the First Hokage in the case of the second person.
“They failed in the simplest thing possible, linking like-to-like, spirit-to-spirit,” he continued. “A world of empathy and understanding, where people don’t have shitty childhoods and children don’t have to fight and kill or be labeled as different because some masked asshole led to his parents being murdered—probably out of some bullshit sob-story related to someone doing him wrong in the past too. No, humanity abused the gift they were given and turned it into a weapon that I’m taking away.”
It clicked for Fuu then, listening to him. “Naruto… you don’t have faith in humanity anymore, do you?”
“I have faith in individuals, but as a whole….” He shook his head. “The point I’m making, Fuu, is that there’s a cycle to all of this. I can’t be the only one who has noticed, but I’m the only one who’s doing something about it by taking away the root issue—yes, they’ll go back to fighting, but better swords and arrows than village-destroying techniques and human sacrifices.”
Fuu went silent in thought. He’d given it more thought that she gave him credit for… no. She should have expected that much with the way he spoke and the conviction that rivaled her own—he understood why he was doing it. But all the same, she wouldn’t give up either.
“If the issue at the core here is that they’re mortal and die…how about we let the Tailed-Beasts do it.” She turned to Choumei. “They’re not mortal, and they’re the ones who would know what the Sage of Six Paths would want best. I’m assuming your seal won’t affect them since Kurama is backing this.”
“No, they’re actually fully-formed chakra entities rather than something that’s melded from physical and spiritual energy….” He looked to Kurama scratched his head in thought. “To be honest, I’m not sure how they exist with any of the corresponding elements that we know of. You see shinobi shape chakra into animals and stuff, but these guys are a cut above them by a long shot. My father literally used a technique meant to rip souls out and only pulled out half of his Yin chakra instead.”
Kurama’s tails swayed softly at that. “My Old Man’s workings surpass the watered down arts of your age. The method you proposed won’t affect us in the slightest.”
“And you aren’t going to tell me about it?”
“It’s not something anyone other than he can replicate. There’s no need for you to waste your efforts pursuing it.”
Choumei stirred in an unsettled manner. “Unless things get really bad and the—”
“Don’t,” Kurama warned. “That won’t happen, because if it did we would cease to be. That knowledge stays with us no matter what. ”
Fuu looked back and forth between the Tailed-Beasts for a moment and then walked over to Naruto. “Back on topic, why don’t we do this?” She pointed at his stomach, where his seal was. “Have them brand people they deem worthy with a bypass-seal and allow them to mold chakra. They can select the wisest of the candidates after I pass away.”
“Okay, but you do remember that there are nine of them, right?” Naruto asked. There was no malice in it. “I don’t think that they’ll all get along and select one person together, or even agree unanimously on the same thing. That little exchange before being my point.”
Choumei buzzed his wings a little in thought. “He’s got a point. Saiken and I don’t really agree on much of anything, and Kurama never did get along with Shukaku.”
“So they’ll likely split up,” Naruto continued. “They’ll choose their own domains and gather followers to give the use of chakra. Then they’re going to inevitably expand and start warring against each other. We’ll end right back up where we left off with super-powered villages attacking each other—the same cycle.”
“Well, the only flaw I see is the human error,” Kurama pointed out.
Both Jincuuriki shot him a look at that.
He shrugged it off and continued. “You said it yourself, the issue is that humans need to expand and can’t be trusted with that power. I’m willing to acknowledge individuals like the Old Man, but as a whole there just aren’t enough humans wise enough to handle that sort of power. My kin and I are different.”
“Shukaku,” Naruto pointed out. “I’m guessing he knew straight-off that you were inside of me when Gaara and I fought, but he was intent on killing me. And you, if for a few years. If that’s an argument between siblings, what the hell is a real fight between you going to be like?”
“He wasn’t always that way,” Kurama countered, eyes narrowing in displeasure at the mention. “Being sealed hasn’t boded well on his mental state.”
“The point remains that if he’s malleable to human thoughts, then what’ll happen to the rest of you?” Naruto asked. “You have it worst—you can literally hear malicious thoughts and negative emotions, Kurama. What happens if you suddenly feel the people who are supposed to serve you have unhappy thoughts about how things are run constantly? How long before you eventually decide you’ve heard enough and gotten rid of them? How long until one guy who’s a cut above the rest eventually turns against you and seals your kind away again like the First Hokage?”
Kurama grumbled at that, but didn’t utter a word.
“…To be blunt, no matter how you slice it there’s not really a good answer here,” Choumei chimed in, after listening carefully. “I can’t say whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, but either way you need to take it one step at a time, think everything over as you do, and do the best you can.”
Naruto sighed. “…Fine, I’ll work on it,” he conceded. “If anything, the Toads and Ferrets should have that right. Either way, we’ll have plenty of time to discuss it. What’s the last condition?”
She swallowed the lump in her throat. No turning back now. “You need to pick between me and Kanna. I don’t want to share anymore.”
“…Why?” Naruto asked, almost confused.
Fuu groaned softly. He had to make this difficult. “Naruto, would you be happy seeing me and her sleeping with some other guy?”
His answer was a very blunt, to the point, “No.”
“Because you want us to only love you in that way, right?” He nodded. “Then that’s why. I don’t want to share you with anyone else romantically, and I don’t think it’s fair to me and her that you get that option when we don’t.”
“So you want to be allowed to—” He cut himself off at seeing the frown that was forming on her face. “No, you don’t want to have to share at all with Kanna… but why?”
“Naruto, I need to be loved unconditionally,” she explained. “I want someone to give me all of themselves. And I’ll do the same to them.”
“Fuu, I’m willing to fight S-Class Shinobi for you. I think it’s clear I’m in love with you.”
“You’d do the same for Gaara,” Fuu pointed out. “And I’m going along with your plan to bring the culture, history, and system that we’ve been raised into to an end, so I think it’s clear I’m in love with you too. If you think this will make you happy then I’ll help, if only because seeing you happy makes me happy too.”
“Then what’s the problem?” he asked. “I’m happy with both of you.”
“Seeing you happy will make me happy as well, just not as much as being loved unconditionally when it comes to romantic love,” she clarified. “I need both to be truly satisfied, Naruto. And as long as you have someone else you love in the same way, it’s only unconditional on my end.”
“… But I still don’t want to decide,” he said. “I love you both too much to have to be forced to choose. Pick something else. Anything else within reason, and I’ll talk terms.”
Fuu frowned. “We just had a minutes-long debate on essentially governing the remnants of humanity… yet you’re being more inflexible with exclusivity?”
“That’s a distant problem, dealing with other people, over the course of a lifetime,” Naruto pointed out. “This is more immediate problem, dealing with us. My priorities are perfectly straight as far as I’m concerned. Is the problem Kanna?”
“Kanna’s…” Fuu looked down as she trailed off, bringing her tanned arms around to hug herself. “She honestly makes me a little jealous, but she’s so damn nice that I can’t hate her for it. That’s her nature, and I always feel like I have to compete with that when I know that deep down I’m not.”
“You’re fine, Fuu.” He stepped forward. “You’ve been just as kind and caring and—”
Her mint-green hair swayed as she shook her head. “Naruto, I’m…” She hesitated for a moment to take a deep breath and steeled herself. “Naruto, we may have both known what it was like to be abandoned by our villages because of what we are, but we didn’t end up the same. You held yourself together, but I took my problems out on others—especially after I tried getting together with Shibuki and realized he would love the village more than me.”
Naruto blinked twice at that, a look of minor surprise on his face. “Shibuki and you?”
“It happened when we were younger and was one-sided,” Fuu said, waving her hand as though to brush it aside. “I was… love hungry, I guess. Aside from Suien, I was trained by another man named Suika. He went missing-nin along with him, but was caught by some of your peers—the Aburame that looked like a drug dealer.”
“What do he and Suien have to do with Shibuki and you?”
“They betrayed me.” Her shoulders shook. “I had no one else but them. They were abusive assholes, especially Suika, but they taught me how to fight and actually seemed to care when the rest of the village just forgot I was out there defending them. I… believed in them—or at least Suien—with everything I had, enough to get Shibuki to tell me where the Hero’s Water was. And then, the moment I decided not to tell them because I wanted to believe in Shibuki after he called me a treasure of the village….”
Naruto caught on when she trailed off. “They turned on you.”
She nodded. “They started to try and beat it out of me, but Shibuki showed up in time before they could get too far. He had a hunch something was off, but he couldn’t fight both of them and live. So I reached out to Choumei and begged for help to save him. He answered, giving me a shroud of chakra to fight them off and save my only real friend.”
“I don’t enjoy the thought of kids being hurt,” claimed the Beetle King. “I mean, they threw her into a pit of spiders that could rot the flesh from bones when she was nine years old. I may not be human, but I have standards.”
Kurama grumbled lightly at that, musing he had been stealthy insulted. “I was angry and had just been released from the hell-hole of a seal his mother had and then had my mind violated. I saw a chance and I took it.”
“I became colder after that,” she continued, holding Naruto’s attention. She wanted to get this out of the way immediately. “If I couldn’t trust them, who could I trust besides Shibuki and Choumei? And it’s not like the other villagers would make the effort to pretend to like me either, so I stayed outside of the village alone—having minimal contact with any of the others assigned to oversee me after what Suien had done.”
“I am so glad I killed him,” Naruto said bluntly.
“Oh, I laughed when I learned you killed Suien—I mean, the most fearsome Jounin of our village got killed by a Genin still doing C-ranked missions at best while empowered by the Hero’s Water.” In her defense, she didn’t know he was a Jinchuuriki then or his mission history. “But I was also a little mad.”
Naruto’s mouth opened, probably to ask why. Then it closed. He extended a hand, gesturing for her continue on.
“He died too quick,” she explained. “He was the man who had me kill a small boy when I was a child for the supposed good of the village—the man who stole my innocence and naivety. I dreamed of making his suffering last for days in the Worm Pit, and you killed him in minutes. Then came the day when they caught Suika.”
A predatory smile came across her face. “I had it all planned out what I was going to do to him. I was prepared to make his suffering legendary… but I let him talk before we began—I wanted to hear him beg for mercy after all the abuse he put me through. Not that it would have helped him.”
“It didn’t go as planned, I take it?” Naruto asked. He seemed pensive learning all of this.
Fuu felt her stomach churn as she recalled what happened. “He told me that I should have been grateful that they bothered to fake caring about me for that long, since no one would love me. He told me they didn’t make me do anything I wouldn’t have wanted to do—that I was a monster they trained up to attack on command, leashing the beast with a few soft words. They were just words, but they weren’t the ones I could stand to hear at that time and I… I…”
Choumei spoke softly. “Fuu-Girl, you don’t have to tell him the next part. It’s not something you could have helped.”
“I swore I’d let Naruto know the real me.” Her expression turned cold. “I snapped, Naruto. I went into my chakra form and everything went red. They said my roars could be heard around the village, but I didn’t remember any of it. Shibuki and the others who oversaw the Worm Pit in Suien’s place found me in shock, lying in a pool of flesh, pounded organs, and blood.”
He grimaced. Anyone would at the sight.
“It was only when I woke up in a private room with some hospital equipment, bound by restraints on my arms and my chakra sealed, that I could remember his screams and taste his insides on my tongue.” She looked into Naruto’s eyes. “Did you ever fall that far, Naruto?”
Naruto sucked in a sharp breath… then slowly shook his head. “There were times when I wanted to, like with Haku. But someone was always there to stop me, or they were too strong and I calmed down before I could act. When I was older, I had enough control and received enough teachings from the monks to make the kills quick and to the point, and Kurama was less of a jerk.”
Her orange-eyes turned downwards, and a bitter smile came across her face. “I wasn’t that lucky. Choumei cut the flow before I hurt Shibuki, but he was too slow to stop me from ripping Suika to pieces. Everyone who heard my roar and saw me that day had their worst fears confirmed by the time I woke up. Only Shibuki smiled when he saw that I was awake and hugged me… he was so warm. ”
That was part of the reason she cared so dearly for him. Next to Naruto, he was the most important human in her life. “But even after his death, Suika’s words haunted me for years—a ghost in my ear whispering how a monster like me could never be loved or accepted. I wanted to prove him wrong. So, when I filled out a bit and gained a bit of a libido, I practically threw myself at Shibuki. I mean, he smiled at me after seeing that I tore a man to pieces, so he could love me unconditionally, right?
It seemed so logical at the time. She never knew parental love, and hadn’t had enough friends to comprehend the divide between the love one would feel with a romantic partner and friendship strong enough to rival it. It was a natural, if mistaken, conclusion to draw.
“Shibuki loves me, but only as a childhood friend.” Her fist clenched. “I didn’t understand it completely, but it felt like Suika was right and it hurt, Naruto. So much so I took it out on everyone I could in a way that wouldn’t trouble Shibuki since I didn’t lose what we had after that. The Grass learned to fear the forest around the Waterfall after I got creative and did unspeakable things with my bugs, but I couldn’t stop this feeling inside of me.”
“Like Gaara,” Naruto realized.
“The things you told me about what Gaara did to his victims back then were child’s play to what I would do,” she said pointedly. “I mean, he can only crush with his sand. I have an entire ecosystem of ways to make someone suffer. I was grateful they reinforced the seals in the Worm Pit after my previous outburst, and I made sure that Shibuki was never remotely close to coming when I was in the middle of an interrogation.”
“She’s not kidding either, if you have any doubts,” Kurama said to Naruto, who turned to him. “I’m purposely not allowing you to hear it, but everything she’s saying is true for her.”
“And then you came along, trespassing in my forest—not affiliated with any village but knew where the entrance to ours was… At that point, I didn’t see the boy who killed Suien, but someone else I could take my anger out on to make it stop just a little. I was going to kill you horribly until Kurama’s chakra reached Choumei and he wanted me to listen to you.”
Another grimace crossed his face.
She sighed and felt tears burning the back of her eyes. “It seemed like a miracle. Another Jinchuuriki who didn’t want me dead, someone who could hopefully understand and love me… I had to have you. No matter what I had to do, or hide, or accept. I took advantage of you to fill in a void, becoming someone you had to love and wanted to protect. And it worked.”
“… It doesn’t matter if it started on a lie,” Naruto decided. “It was real enough to me and it made you happy. But, Fuu, Kanna’s had it rough too growing up—”
Fuu raised her hand to stop him. “I know, and that makes it worse. All three of us have had horrible things happen to us, but I turned out the worst—someone who’s selfish when it comes to love and ruthless when angry. I’m not going to be as bad as I used to be, but I will be doing things my way to get things done and it won’t be pretty. I needed to let you know that.”
He frowned. “Then it didn’t do anything for you in the end.”
“I’m a better person because of you, Naruto,” she assured him, holding her hands over her heart. “You gave me love that Shibuki couldn’t, companionship that Choumei couldn’t, and introduced me to the Bugs of Isle of Insects and the Ferrets. But because I had to hide my darker parts, I started making mistakes and holding back when I shouldn’t—lessening myself. The old me wouldn’t have let what happened in Uzushio go the way it did, and I lost you to Konoha for it.”
Fuu walked up to him and cupped his cheeks with her slender hands. “I don’t want you to pick me because you think it’ll make me help you, or because you pity me after hearing that. You can choose me permanently over her and any other woman, and be truly happy about it—” She strongly stressed that last part. “—or I can see you happy with her and find someone else who will love me unconditionally, now that I know I can be loved and be worthy of it. Either way, I’ll find satisfaction on that front—but I need it Naruto. ”
“…Akatsuki first,” he said after a pause, leaning his head back. “Then I’ll decide. Making a choice when we’ve got targets on our backs doesn’t do anyone any good.”
Fuu nodded. “Okay.” She pulled her hands back to her chest. “Where do we start?”
“Locating the other Jinchuuriki is one step.” He turned back to the blackboard. “But another is a power-source for the Grand Seals. I can’t use chakra to power a seal that stops people from generating it in the first place, otherwise it’d fail.”
That was an obvious problem when you looked at it. “Then what can you use?”
“That third source Kurama mentioned—Natural Energy.” He gestured to the air and ground. “Not only is it abundant in nature, but its constantly being produced by the planet and in the atmosphere from what I learned from Kurama. As long as the intake of the seal is below the amount it uses after it reaches capacity, it can be sustained indefinitely without too many negative effects.”
“I guess that sounds fine.” She nodded. “Then we’d need to ask around.”
“The Toads are out since they might like me, but they are allied with Konoha and I don’t want the Pervy Sage getting word about any of this.” He tapped his chin in thought. “It’ll be hard, but if we could find another authority on melding both Natural Energy and Seals, we could get this done in a few years than decades.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Fuu said. “The Ferrets, the Insects… maybe I could get bugs on the mountain with the Toads and spy on them. I’ll do that before I head to the Earth Country on business.”
She hadn’t been kidding when she said Naruto needed help, and she needed to start building her swarm to command. It was best to start with other Insect-users, and there was fledgling clan there that would be ripe for assimilating there. She just needed a bargaining tool, since making them serve by force would inevitably backfire.
“Oh, one last thing before you go,” Naruto added. “When you get back out, can you have the Ferrets leave an axe and give me about a day after I wake up before they come in.”
Fuu’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Why…?”
Naruto held up the back of his hands, showing the seals on them in reflection to his real body. “I can’t give this my all if I’m hampered by these seals. I thought that it was proof of my freedom, but now I know freedom isn’t just being able to go where you want or do what you want. It’s about the drive you have to live in order to accomplish something as well—and I need to give this my all. So, I kinda need to my hands to work for this.”
She caught on immediately. It was a miracle she kept her expression flat and her tone dull. “I’m not a fan of that way of getting them off.”
“I don’t want to waste any time,” Naruto insisted. “And Kurama has reasonably assured me that I can grow them back in my Chakra Mode state, but it’ll take around a day and I’ll have to keep refining his chakra in my mindscape during that period of time.”
“… I’m in love with a madman,” Fuu decided as she turned to the fox. “If his hands don’t grow back perfectly, you’d better start praying to your father.”
“Noted,” was all Kurama said.
In a faraway place, isolated from others by miles of ocean water, Kabuto struggled as he felt the invasive nature of his master’s blood working to overtake him after his previous exertion. Not that he’d expect anything less. Regardless, he’d need a few moments to reorient himself.
“You’re not going to keel over, are you?” asked the red-haired young woman with glasses as she watched him from her perch against the wall. Blood and viscera caked the floor elsewhere, leaving it one of the few places still clean.
“I’ll be right as rain soon enough, Karin-chan.” There was no way he could die before he set out and completed what he wanted to do. “But about that matter we discussed. Have you made a decision?”
“Well, since you’ve gone out of your way to slaughter everyone I was supposed to be keeping locked up and Orochimaru is dead, I really have nothing better to do.” She pushed her glasses up by the rim. “As long as you keep your end of the bargain, I’ll help you.”
Kabuto smirked. “Of course. Now, just give me a moment to gather myself and we’ll be on our way. We do have others to collect, after all.”
Naruto: Wind Monk Banishment 14 (Main)
Chapter 14: Escape from Konoha
With Fuu – The Present
The memory faded and Fuu returned to the mindscape that took the form of the village that she never could call home, even though she once longed to. And, as if that longing and the pain of absence she found from it had been reflected upon her charcoal-shaded reflection, her shadow looked downtrodden as she looked up to the strung-up jinchuuriki.
“You cast me aside,” her doppelganger said, its voice somber. “After everything we had been through, you abandoned me. Made yourself into what you thought would be the perfect woman for him, all so you could know what it was like to be loved…so he didn’t see what we really were like.”
“I couldn’t let him know how different we were,” Fuu said, her voice hoarse and cracking. The truth burned coming out as she faced her shadow, an amalgamation of everything that she buried deep down and out of sight—her selfish desires, her flaws, everything that wouldn’t make her suitable to be with Naruto since the day she decided to make him hers. “We started the same, being loathed and hated by a village we were sworn to protect. But he never broke, not even after he was cast aside. Me though, I…I couldn’t stand it and I became the exact type of person I hated, exactly like Suien.”
“So to hide the truth from him you’ll seal me away again?” Dark Fuu’s head tilted, awaiting a response. “You’ll keep lessening us to make him happy?”
“If Naruto knew what I was really like, I’m afraid I’ll lose him,” Fuu reasoned. “He could love me for being a jinchuuriki, or for suffering a familiar upbringing that was built on pain. If he knew how I thought about using him at first, how I killed because I could and would have done so for him simply being in my territory at the time…”
He wouldn’t love me anymore, went unsaid after she trailed off. And the thought left her trembling against the tree and silk fetters. She wanted to be loved, even if it meant accepting that she wasn’t the only one he loved.
“To love someone is to accept them for what they are,” her opposite said. “You can’t say that he really loves you unless he knows and accepts us for everything we are, but you didn’t even give him a chance to see the real us before you swept everything you thought he’d dislike under a rug—the ruthlessness within, the selfish wants, everything that you felt would taint the image he had of us. That isn’t fair to any of us.”
Fuu didn’t deny a word of it. “And if he doesn’t accept it?”
“Then we make small concessions.” Her shadow fluttered her wings and rose in the air until she was eye-level with Fuu, pleased that progress was being made. “A relationship is that of equals, isn’t it? It’s neither giving yourself entirely nor taking everything that the other has.”
“What if that isn’t enough?” She exhaled a staggered breath and looked down. “What if he still abandons us?”
Bringing her slender hand up to her chin and lifting it so they were looking each other in the eyes, Dark Fuu spoke softly. “Then we grieve… we lament… and we move on. The folly of relying solely on another person’s attention has already befell us once before with Suien. We are strong enough to weather it and find a place in the world we belong, even if we must bear the pain of a broken heart.”
The thought hurt—to the extent tears streamed down her cheeks. Losing love after experiencing it would be a hell in itself… but the happiness would always be tainted by the thought that it was all because she hid her darker nature, leaving him to love a mask born from her lessening herself.
“Okay.” She put on a pained smile to her shadow. “We’ll go together, as a whole.”
The admission severed the silken bonds and clipped her doppelganger’s wings, leaving them both to fall into the depths of darkness that formed the waters of her past. Like two clumps of salt, they dissolved within it and saturated the water as the mindscape collapsed in on itself—shattering like glass and raining down into the dark waters to do the same. The liquid darkness then shrank down and took form, leaving a woman made whole in its place.
Choumei, having been observing from his own personal space, fluttered down to his newborn host. He wasn’t certain the personality that the whole, a true melding of everything that had been repressed, would have. So he kept his tone cautious as he spoke. “Fuu-girl… you there?”
She extended her hands towards Choumei and spoke softly. “Give me the chakra, Lucky Seven.”
He lowered it into her hands with his tail as she requested. “What will you do with it?”
“We… I’m going to get Naruto,” she said plainly as she held the radiant sphere of chakra with the palm of her hands. “After that… whether he accepts me or not, I’m going to deal with Akatsuki in my way so that you and I can be truly happy and free.”
“One of them is attacking as we speak,” Choumei notified her. He brought up the outside world within her mindscape, revealing Kanna being strangled to death. “What will you do?”
“… Getting rid of her like this isn’t suitable for me and would leave Naruto to grieve and doubt when I explain everything to him,” she decided as she crushed the drop of chakra and felt it bleed into her being. Knowledge flowed in as well, giving her an innate understanding of their biological functions and structures. Could she manipulate them now? “Link me to every insect in the area—no, the entire village.”
Choumei’s chakra pulsed out and she became distinctly aware of every insect it touched upon, and they her. The hierarchy was established upon contact, she the queen and they her subjects. Thus they answered the call of their queen and swarmed towards her body as she awoke, draped in her Seven-Tailed Cloak. Her tails smashed into the Akatsuki member, busting an opening in the wall where the insects could pour through and swarm her.
Fuu felt her head splitting as the chakra pulse still went on, encompassing the village and adding millions of subjects to her army. Her consciousness felt split between them, leaving her everywhere and aware of it. Then, just as abruptly as it began, it eased—the information filtered in more smoothly.
“I’ll handle the heavy-load,” Choumei told her. “You have to grow accustomed to that level of information. Focus on what you can do for the moment.”
Right. She sighed and thought to herself what she could do with what she had. The insects that coated her body were biomass, their structures malleable with the proper use the Beetle King’s Yang chakra to act as the bridge. A thought passed from her to Choumei and then to her—no, their subjects, while the chakra bridged the gap by melding the exoskeletons into her flesh and hardening it become armor, a jet-black carapace to weather whatever could be thrown into it, and the lenses that covered her eyes connected with those of her innumerable subjects to track her foe.
“There’s nothing more you can do,” spoke the insects that served as her mouth, which was covered by a plate. The wings that weren’t needed on her subjects that became the plating of her armor were modified and then shifted, melded into a set that found their way to a hump at the back of her armor. It contained the rest of the unused biomass, granting her wings that carried her into the air.
Hovering above the slumbering village with the moon against her back, Fuu allowed her subjects to search for her enemy. She paid no mind to the shifting sand as the Kazekage approached atop a platform of sand, arms crossed as he stared at her back. “Have you secured the Wind Daimyo?”
“Yes.” He came to a stop next to her. “She’s being taken to a secure location as we speak.”
A spider lingering in the shadows of a building some distance away caught the fleeting figure of a shinobi carting her off in his arms. Another was following behind as a guard. At the same time, a set of small gnats that were hovering around a desert plant roughly three blocks away were suddenly shifted out of place as the thing that had been in her room was now being sprouted from the plant—pure white instead of half-white and half-black.
“Twelfth building to the left,” she said abruptly. “On the balcony.”
Gaara blinked for a moment at that. Then he closed one eye and sent grains of sand out in that direction, thinly enough to go unnoticed by most, forming a faux eye and connecting chakra to it like a spiritual optic nerve. He spotted the white creature sticking out of the plant. “I see him. Is that the one responsible for the Daimyo?”
“Half of him,” she answered. “Another one’s loose.”
“Understood.” He gathered the loose grains into a dense sphere in the thing’s blind-spot as it peered around the corner at them. Then he launched it.
The sphere punched through the white things head in a spray of pale fluid. Some of Fuu’s subjects quickly swarmed the remains to ensure the kill by consuming it, while the others searched for the black-half that had split from it after she batted them out of the building. They’d scour all of Wind Country if they had to.
The world exploded for Tobi and it took him a split-second to recall what had happened. One second he was about to claim a second set of Sharingan eyes. The next darkness overtook him and sent his consciousness on a trip to the abyss. Now, sailing over Konoha, pain was molesting his body from a single painful impact. It had been awhile since he’d felt that sort of pain with his intangibility.
He hadn’t missed it.
Righting himself in the air, he saw the Jinchuuriki wreathed in a golden cloak of chakra and coming at him fast. His arm was cocked back, fist clenched, and the chakra surrounding it like armor swelling into the shape of a larger fist half the size of his body. Kneading his own chakra to deal with the threat, Tobi let loose the spiraling vortex of flames meant to scorch and burn away the chakra and leave the Jinchuuriki into a barely living, charred husk.
The air above Konoha was set alight by the technique until he felt something striking at him from the side and sending him flying again. This time he smashed into the forest outside of the village and into a tree at an angle, leaving him aching as he pulled himself out of the broken splinters while the dust cloud still lingered.
Okay, he’s faster than I gave him credit for. Tobi thrust his arm out and let dozens upon dozens of wooden spikes fly out to intercept the chakra-clad Jinchuuriki that was like a beacon in the dark to his Sharingan. In what amounted to a fraction of a second, the Jinchuuriki crafted a block of chakra and pushed off it to get out of the way, hitting the ground, and then rocketed forward with a chakra blade in his hand.
Tobi phased through the slash and let the blade go through his body undeterred, before turning to grasp the Jinchuuriki with his solidifying hand. No sooner than his fingers were wrapped around it did the chakra sharpen into a blade and scythed through his fingers and hand, emerging as a curved blade that continued through his arm and still-phased torso before the Jinchuuriki darted away unharmed.
Tobi brought his gloved hand to the stump that leaked plant-matter, and then turned to look towards the direction that the annoyance shot towards and found him standing there, silently twisting the seal on his stomach. The etching’s shifted and out came a rod that he twirled before it formed a Monk’s Spade.
Then he swung. In the time it took for Tobi to fix his gaze upon the Jinchuuriki and carve that speed into his eternal eyes, the extended blade of the spade was already moving to scythe his head from his shoulders. He sucked himself into his dimension and crossed the space between them before re-emerging behind the golden-cloaked container….
Only he was gone.
Tobi clicked his tongue when he heard the crashing of trees and saw an attack closing in on him, a whirling disk of chakra sawing through the trees in a futile attempt to hit him. He let it pass through him harmlessly and then began re-establish himself in the third dimension when he felt death crawling up his spine and moved in time to avoid being impaled where he stood as the Jinchuuriki attacked from the blind-spot above his head.
Tobi whirled around and fired a spray of fireballs, only to have them dispersed as the Jinchuuriki spun the weapon around. It then collapsed itself into the rod and reformed into a broad-sword chakra blade when Tobi felt his feet being pulled into the ground and looked down to see a pair of chakra hands coming from underneath the ground.
Clever, he gave the boy, but it only served to route the Jinchuuriki as he moved with the chakra blade like a streaking flash of light to cut through him. A straight lunge too easily telegraphed in the end as Tobi opened Kamui to pull him in. Then chakra bled ahead of him to become a solid block and the jinchuuriki leapt off it to go airborne, ricochet off a tree-limb, and then come from behind in an attempt to cut through his body again.
But it was too late. He canceled the suction and then un-phased his feet to free him from the grasp of the arms before turning to unleash a stream of fire.
A chakra-arm shot out of the Jinchuuriki’s body and grasped a tree before it could hit, pulling him away and allowing him to reorient himself. He looked pensively at his opponent for a moment, and then he flooded the area with chakra until it saturated the air and ground around them completely. Tobi was forced to phase himself once more as it closed in from all angles and solidifying to crush him into a compressed, dense block.
He’s experimenting to figure out how my phasing works, Tobi realized as he sucked himself into his personal dimension a final time. He looked down to the stump of an arm that had solidified and gathered his thoughts, ignoring the ache from the blunt impacts that landed earlier. The Jinchuuriki became much faster, his reaction speed became impeccable given how quickly he countered from what should have been blind-spots and dedicated strikes, not to mention that he can freely shape his chakra—including that of the coat he’s wearing, allowing him to sharpen it enough to cut my when I touch it.
Taking those facts into consideration, and that the clone Zetsu that could have sapped his chakra away was missing and likely destroyed, he made a decision to retreat. It burned him to do so when his plans were nearing the point where they could be realized, but things were spiraling out of control now that the Jinchuuriki had awakened….
No, that wasn’t the only thing. Itachi played a part, buying time to save his brother and awaken the Jinchuuriki. He could only berate himself that he was so careless to let that piece remain on the board as long as he did. It bit him in the ass hard, and he was wondering if Pain didn’t have something to do with that….
He’d deal with him later, if that was the case.
But first he’d have to regroup with Black Zetsu and replace his arm. All-in-all, it was a minor series of setbacks, but they could be handled and compensated for it in the future. The Moon’s Eye plan would happen.
No matter what it took.
Naruto sped through the trees of Fire Country once he could no longer perceive the negative feelings wafting off the masked man, meaning he had given up and retreated or decided to suddenly be Naruto’s best friend. Somehow, he doubted it was the latter. With Kurama acting like a giant antenna and catching all of those negative emotions within a large range, it became easy enough to tell when there was someone around who would do him harm and that allowed him to piece together some facts and act accordingly.
The first was that he masked freak was using some kind of personalized Time-Space technique. He wasn’t sure what kind it was, but he knew enough that it made physical obstacles completely useless. The same went for that teleportation trick, maybe some kind of seal-less variant of what his father did?
Either way, if he could lock down the local area’s dimension like he did with Manda then that would settle things. Hopefully. But the current arrangement with the sealing structure would make that impossible with how heavy the cost was in terms of chakra. He’d have to revise it with a different formula to get that to work right.
Naruto made it to the Valley of the End, serving as the border of Fire Country, when the excess energy of the drop of chakra that his parents had given him wore off. It hadn’t even taken him a minute to get that far from the village. How fast was he now? More tests for later.
Exhaustion came over him as the golden-cloak faded entirely and left him panting as he came to a rest at the base of the waterfall. Going from inactive to that level of activity had strained him severely. He felt like he wanted to take a nap that would last a few days, but if he did that they’d have him back in the village in no time.
Instead, Naruto bit his thumb and dragged the blood over the summoning seal on his arm. When he placed the palm of his hand on the surface, a puff of smoke signaled that the technique was successful and Pace emerged. The small ferret jumped up in excitement when he saw him.
“Boss, you’re okay!?” he chirped, running along his arm and perching himself on Naruto’s shoulder.
“Somehow,” Naruto told him. “Could you have your father reverse-summon me before Konoha picks me up again? I don’t have any treats on me, but I’ll pay you back when I’m up on my feet again.”
“Sure thing.” He gave him a salute and then disappeared with a puff, returning from whence he came.
Naruto sighed. Now all there was left was to wait, leaving him alone with his thoughts. He would need to learn the location of the rest of the Tailed-Beasts and their hosts, as well as establish some kind of safe zone for them until he finished dealing with Akatsuki. He’d need Fuu’s help for the search, at the very least… and to pay a visit to Temujin’s home country to see if there was some land he could purchase—setting up a shelter somewhere one of the elemental countries was just asking for trouble.
As for Gaara… he’d have to leave him in the dark about his intentions. A Hidden Village’s strength was in their ability to use chakra, so robbing everyone of the ability to do it would be something that went against his duties as the Kazekage. He didn’t want to make Gaara have to choose between his friend and his job like that.
No, this was the sort of thing he had to keep close to his chest barring a few people in specific. But it had to be done. He truly felt that. The monsters known as shinobi had to come to an end, gracefully ceasing to exist in the pages of history and quietly fading away.
He made a conscious effort to ignore the deep chuckle that Kurama deigned to let loose at that thought when he felt himself being pulled, vanishing from the Valley of the End….
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….