|The Other Naruto
Author: Crazy PurpleSage PM
Naruto didn't know the first time he realized he was different from everyone else. Whether it was the villagers' hateful cries, or his own instinctive knowledge. But one thing was for sure: he didn't belong in Konoha and wouldn't live there his whole life. (See profile for update)Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Naruto U. & Itachi U. - Chapters: 19 - Words: 63,349 - Reviews: 260 - Favs: 226 - Follows: 270 - Updated: 08-13-10 - Published: 12-09-08 - id: 4706561
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
Many thanks to Bea for chapterising. And thank you for telling me that I should continue with this fic for the moment, I needed the extra push in the right direction.
A HUGE THANKS to cutsycat for her wonderful inspiration that overrode my writer's block. She basically wrote a part of this chapter for me. BIG Hug in thanks! J
Everyone please enjoy another chapter!
The Other Naruto
"Does anyone know how he made it?" Itachi asked, continuing their little quizzing session from before as they scaled down the mountain.
Clinging to the sides of the narrow path that looked to be hewn away at centuries ago, Naruto struggled to multitask, paying attention to Itachi's question and not falling.
"Um, um," Naruto looked down at his feet to make sure of his steps while trying to convert Itachi's words into meaning. "No. He used the energy –" the rock crumbled in his left hand, making him lose his footing for a moment. However, Itachi didn't even have to move a hand back to catch him because he had his hands on another hold a second later. "The, the energy from Nature, from the water, to sustain the jutsu. But no one has been able to copy the exact –" he stumbled forward, reaching for Itachi's cloak on reflex, but caught himself just in time. "Sorry," he muttered, not really sure why as he hadn't touched Itachi. "Exact," he paused, what had he been saying? "Uh, no one's been able to figure out the exact jutsu and signs to copy it since."
Naruto chanced a look up at Itachi to see if he wanted anything more. But the elder Uchiha remained quiet, giving hint for neither yea nor nay. Instead, he kept on walking, palms brushing the side, but forging forward calmly, unaware to Naruto's troubles with the narrow way. So, Naruto returned to looking at his feet and concentrating on not tripping. Itachi must have realised this and, not wanting his young apprentice to fall, kept quiet for the rest of the way down.
Naruto bit hard on his lip as the path started getting narrower and more slippery as they descended closer to the water. Even some of the spray from the waves was misting about their feet, making every foothold dangerous. He had already slipped and lost his footing several times, fallen dangerously close to the edge, and had to have Itachi pull him back to his feet more times than he could count. It was like his surroundings and body were both rebelling against him to no end. Itachi, on the other hand, was perfectly in control of every move, and not for the first time Naruto felt a mixture of pride, jealousy, and wonder.
Suddenly, Itachi stopped. "We're here," he said, his hand seemingly disappearing into the cliff. Grabbing Naruto's hand, he pulled the blond forward through the small gap between two large slabs of rock, and into the cave.
The first thing Naruto thought was that it was dark. He felt Itachi reaching blindly along the walls for some kind of torch. Seconds later, a match was struck and light flared in Itachi's hand.
"So I'm guessing people don't usually come down here," Naruto attempted to lighten the dark, musky, and almost suffocating atmosphere.
"No," Itachi answered humorless, "they don't. It's forbidden and supposed to be hidden for the most part."
"Supposed to be," Naruto interjected as they inched there way further into the cave, the black rock walls dripping with rivulets of water.
"The gods didn't want it to become some common shrine or tourist attraction, but something much more sacred and revered, and thus barely known."
Naruto nodded as though he understood; though, he wasn't sure how anyone could revere something they didn't know about. Who figured out that logic? Weren't the gods supposed to be smart? Well, there was that 'supposed to be' again.
"And you really think the ring is in here? That this is the sphere they want us to find?" Naruto asked, sidling closer to Itachi as he spoke. The action afforded him the visibility to see Itachi shrug.
"I hope so," Itachi said, "I can't imagine they're talking about any old sphere or jewel. And the harder to get to, the more torture they put us through."
"For all their trickery," Naruto mused, grasping the back of Itachi's cloak as he almost slipped yet again, "the Akatsuki seem like a surprisingly easy bunch to figure out."
Itachi stopped, forcing Naruto to grasp even tighter to his cloak to keep his footing. "I don't say this lightly Naruto, and since I don't know when we'll have a private moment again, listen well. Do. Not. Underestimate. Them."
The passageway suddenly cut to the left and Itachi tugged on Naruto's arm, pulling him along harshly. Naruto closed his eyes, embraced for the impact of the wall or something nasty, but he was miraculously whisked away. Itachi pulled Naruto closer to his body and slowed his steps. Opening his eyes, Naruto could see why. The walls were bathed in a opaque blue and were constantly moving. Or, no, it wasn't the walls that were moving, but something was moving over them. Like a water reflection.
Naruto slowly turned his head to the middle of the room where the source of the light lay. A sphere of water, a bit bigger than a human head, was suspended in mid air.
"No," Naruto whispered in reverent wonder. Now he himself wondered too how this powerful jewel was made. Because it was, if nothing else, it was powerful. That scroll hadn't been lying about the strong barrier that surrounded it, which was also standing on its own with no source, nor the pure energy exuded by the ball itself. It was just one pure, smooth, unmarred ball of water. It looked like it was trapped in a glass sphere, but Naruto knew that if he could reach his hand into it –disregarding the chakra barriers–he would just feel water.
"You are looking at the oldest artifacts of Amegakure and the shinobi world," Itachi's voice was more than just bordering on reverence. And he left it at that. Though Naruto needed no further prompting, he knew what Itachi was telling him. Look long and hard and appreciate the sight before you and what it means. Naruto had had that particular skill of patience and awareness drilled into him from Itachi's first lessons.
But no matter how awesome the sight was, he knew he could look at it all day in every different angle and still not be able to figure out how it worked, he still wanted to find the reason why they were here. The ring. Where was it? Naruto cast his eyes around the room, grazing the walls with careful precision. There was nothing to the left of the sphere, to the right, on the ground, or the ceiling.
"The bastards," Itachi cursed softly.
Naruto widened his eyes at Itachi, wondering what made him upset. He followed the elder's gaze to atop the sphere, where the ring sat in midair, just not touching the water.
"Oh," he followed lamely, slowly comprehending the insurmountable task ahead of them.
"How, Naruto," Itachi asked quietly, beginning to pace across the front of the chakra barrier, studying it intensely, "Do you break a chakra barrier?"
Naruto scrambled to answer, blurting out the first thing that came to mind. "Distract or kill the source of the chakra." He grimaced. That was stupid. Tomohiro was the source and he was long dead, which was all part of the mystery behind the still-standing sphere and barriers. Naruto always suspected the gods had added their own power to the creation for it to stand the tests of time and serve as a reminder to all humans who dared defy the gods again. But he couldn't be certain. All the same, if his guess was correct they wouldn't be any closer to killing the source than killing Tomohiro –can't kill what doesn't die or is already dead.
"And if that's not possible?" Itachi's voice softened even further, keeping his eyes on the ring the whole time.
"Then, then." Naruto bit the inside of his cheek. "Destroy it head-on?" He suggested hopefully, if not naively.
Itachi pursed his lips; he could be going over that option or trying to think of a better, smarter one himself. Naruto wouldn't bet on either, he knew Itachi was unpredictable like that. He had a mind Naruto knew he'd never be able to understand. Naruto tried to wrack his brain for another solution, something that could actually help their situation and would make Itachi proud. He wanted Itachi to look at him again with those smiling eyes like he just enjoyed Naruto's company. Not the sad eyes of regret and sorrow and anger that he had become so used to seeing this past year. Naruto involuntarily looked up to check what Itachi's eyes were saying now. But instead they were switched to the one mode that was impossible to read: the Sharingan. There was no emotion per se in the spinning tomoe, just power and clinical precision; and sometimes, unadulterated, smoldering anger.
Luckily, though, there was no anger in this stare this time. Still, the Sharingan radiated a power that made Itachi seem much more isolated than usual. It made him into an Uchiha, nothing more, making Naruto feel like he was looking at a pristine statue of a specimen from outside of a glass case. Not anything like the friend and big brother he had come to know and love.
Suddenly, Itachi's eyes narrowed into unmistakable anger as the Sharingan pinned one point in the chakra barrier. "They wouldn't," he murmured to himself, outraged.
Naruto felt like a rabbit caught in the road before an oncoming cart when Itachi looked down at him, Sharingan still on, but no longer spinning.
"What is the best way to combat ancient jutsus?"
"Another ancient jutsu!" Naruto responded on command. It was 101 shinobi knowledge; at least, according to Itachi's training. He doubted Itachi needed the answer though, he was already 15 steps ahead of Naruto and contemplating the various ways to solve this problem.
"Exactly," he cursed softly, turning off his Sharingan and scanning the room again.
Finally, despite his better judgment, Naruto couldn't hold it in any longer.
"What did you find?" Naruto blurted out, waiting with baited breath to see how Itachi would respond.
After a moment of silence passed, where Naruto fidgeted from one foot to the other, stuffing his hands in his pockets and then taking them out again to examine his finger nails, looking around the room briefly while shooting anxious glances at Itachi every other second.
"I analysed the barrier and found a weakness." Itachi refused to look his way; hands at his side in a relaxed, yet formal posture. He lifted one finger and ran it over the clasp to the pouch holding the two acquired rings.
Naruto nodded. "Really?" A hopeful smile started growing on his face quickly. "Where?"
"There," Itachi pointed, taking Naruto's arm at the same moment to prevent the boy from acting on impulse to go closer and try to see and touch for himself. "It's still strong, but from the nature of the web –very intricate crosses of chakra as though they were literally hand-woven. It's so small," Itachi bent his head forward, trying to see the lines with the naked eye. "The point I'm referring to is at the top, where several strands are grafted together," he pointed again, making sure Naruto followed the line of his finger to the exact spot. Though, without the Sharingan the individual lines were invisible, only a light shimmer of greens and blues were seen when the glow off the water hit the strands at just the right angle.
"But we need some ancient jutsu to move it, don't we?" Naruto asked, scratching the base of his skull with one hand and fisting the other at his side. He squeezed his brain, trying to think of all the jutsus he had learned that would help. Not the dragon fire, or leaf jump, whirlpool shadow cut, dog deamon attack. Naruto shook his head. Too weak for this. Double sword blaze? No, that needed….but maybe a hooded samurai twist? Hm. He had nothing.
Itachi nodded before looking over at Naruto, seeing that he wasn't coming up with anything further, in what could only be described as calculating and wary.
"What?" Naruto blinked expectantly, shifting in his sandals as Itachi just stared down at him, no emotion on his face. The lines under his eyes seemed to darken by the second, the air around Itachi getting colder and more ominous than before. Not that standing in a cave room with an ancient artifact as old as time was like sitting next to a campfire, but Naruto hadn't felt the chills on his arms or the goose bumps raising before now.
"How well do you know the Kyuubi?" Itachi said evenly. "When was the last time you spoke with him?"
Was that all, Naruto thought? He was expecting something hard, like he had to try out a new jutsu, some ancient one that hadn't been used in centuries and Itachi needed him to learn it now or else. Well, something like that anyway. "Pretty well. We used to talk a lot, ever since you started training," Naruto said, eager to share everything he knew. But didn't Itachi already know all this? "But ever since Yaso joined the team, he kind of went into hibernation so not to bring out Yaso's demon side and all. We haven't really talked much since." He shrugged, running a hand over his stomach. "Why?"
"Can you contact him now?"
"But if you think you're prepared," Kakashi closed his eye and one could see a smile creasing the fabric of his mask. Yaso wasn't sure whether it was in amusement or sadism. "I'll give you a second test since you seem to have failed your first." Pressing the knife a little closer to Sasuke's neck, Kakashi looked back up at Sakura and said in the most pleasant voice possible, "Sakura, kill Naruto now or Sasuke dies."
Yaso's eyes widened in terror. Geeze, just set a crazed Sasuke fangirl on me, why don't you Kakashi?
Sakura, as bug-eyed as Yaso, if not more so, looked from Sasuke to Naruto to Kakashi in disbelief and pure terror.
"Uh –huh – uh, sensei?" Sakura wrung her hands together frantically, licking her lips, green eyes darting all around, waiting for someone to jump out and say it's all a joke.
"A ninja can't afford to hesitate." Kakashi pressed the kunai further into Sasuke's neck, drawing a drop of blood that trailed down Sasuke's collarbone and disappeared into his shirt, but not before mixing in with the sweat gathered around the back of his neck. "You're in a battle; an enemy has grabbed both your teammates and is threatening to kill them both unless you surrender, and then maybe, just maybe, one of them may live. You have to choose which one."
" – I –"
"One of your teammates has just fallen, a tree branch is crushing their legs. Ahead, your other teammate is battling an enemy and losing, badly. Behind you, three more enemies are racing towards you. Who do you save?"
"– But –"
"Decide. Now. Or they both die." Kakashi's voice rose harshly with each word, his eyes darkening freakily. "Do you want that?"
"No! Of course not! But, I –"
"Time's up," Kakashi cut her off, "they're both dead. And you've failed your missions."
Sakura's nonexistent chest swelled rapidly, tears springing to her eyes at the words. Failure was not in her vocabulary, she was on top of everything. And she had just failed within two seconds without even moving a finger.
"That," Kakashi emphasised, relaxing his hand and moving it away from Sasuke's neck, tucking it back in his pouch, "Is what it means to be a shinobi." He stood up and pulled Sasuke with him by arm, which was still twisted behind his back, before releasing the boy and stepping back. "I'm sure you all thought it would be fun to be ninja; go on missions, meet and save some people, have a good time. Is that it?"
Sakura shook her head frantically, for once, at a loss for words. Sasuke just glared his patent Uchiha glare of Death and fire. Yaso stayed silent, he sincerely hoped this wasn't Kakashi's excuse for failing them. Of course most every genin coming out of the sheltered Academy thinks that being a ninja is the cool thing. Sure some have things to prove, family to impress, clan names to live up to, and maybe some kind of inspirational or tragic motivation in their past, but for the most part, they didn't know the full gravity of what it was to be a ninja. How could they? That's why they're beginners. It's like telling someone who's never worked in a kitchen before that they'll never be a good cook because they don't what it means to be a skilled chef. Well, duh!
"We-we can learn," Sakura spoke demurely, her head bent low and her eyes hidden. It was the smartest thing she had said –ever. Yaso looked back up Kakashi, wondering what his retort would be. Sure the man obviously smart and powerful and experienced, but he obviously didn't know how to or didn't want to be a teacher. Yaso couldn't figure out which yet.
"You think you can do it?" Kakashi sounded unimpressed, yet he never lost his bored tone at the same time. At three hesitant nods, Kakashi crossed his arms and tilted his head back, watching them calculatingly. "Do you even know the purpose behind this test? Why you were put into teams of three when there are only two bells? Or why there are only two lunch boxes and someone inevitably gets tied up the pole?" He gestured lazily at Yaso.
Finally, Yaso thought, maybe when he tells us it'll finally get through those two's thick skulls.
Silence stretched on. Yaso, despite wanting to keep in persona, was not going to admit that he didn't know. Rather be a silent idiot than a brash one. Heh, talk about acting against character.
"Aren't you going to tell us?" Sakura finally said, playing with the hem of her red dress and looking up with bright eyes, the look of a curious student eager to learn. It got teachers every time. But they were no longer in school. Obviously.
"No." Kakashi smiled cruelly, disappointingly. "That's something you guys still have to figure out for yourselves. That is the point of a test, is it not?" He twirled the kunai, which had been pressed to Sasuke's throat moments before, around his pointer finger, looking at each of them in turn as though they were the ones he was playing with, twisting them round and round his finger until they snapped. "Getting the answer right guarantees a pass or fail. So, what's it going to be?"
Again, silence, an awkward and incredibly tense silence, stretched on. And Kakashi seemed to becoming more and more disappointed by the second. Finally, he appeared to be giving up. With a sigh, Kakashi slipped out the small orange book from his pocket and lowered his eyes to its contents.
"Fine. Maybe you just need some more time to think." Kakashi turned his body away and pushed out one leg straight in front of his body, like a mime exaggerating walking. "Those," he pointed to the two bento boxes on a stump similar to Yaso's, but taller, "are for you two," he flicked his finger at Sasuke and Sakura. "You are not to give any food to Naruto, as he cheated. Give him anything and you fail on the spot. After lunch you guys have one more shot to get the bells. If you can't get them within an hour, you are all failing, and not just being sent back to the Academy, I'll make sure none of you can ever become ninjas ever again."
Three horrified faces stared up at him, none even trying to hide their wide eyes, dropped jaws, and incredulous expressions.
Without waiting for an answer, Kakashi turned away and walked off to who knows where.
"Now?" But even as Naruto gasped in disbelief, he reached down into his conscious and called to wake his tenant. A ninja didn't hesitate, that was one rule he knew by heart. When you were given a command, you followed through immediately. No questions asked. Even being on the road with Itachi all this time hadn't dulled that reflex.
"Kyuubi?" Naruto called, rubbing his eyes, wondering if the lack of light and hazy darkness was from his sight or the area itself. "Kyuubi, are you down here?"
It was very dark; shadows were moving and hovering and coming alive around him, everywhere he stepped. He wasn't sure whether to attribute this creepy place to the state of his mind or Kyuubi's. The shadows became darker and darker as he walked further and further down the –hall? passageway? He didn't even know where he was really. But he had a feeling he was getting close. Call it intuition of knowing where the Kyuubi was inside of him.
He hit something and stopped, keeping himself from tripping with ease as he wasn't fully side inside his mind, or maybe there was just less gravity here outside of reality. Naruto reached out his hands and pet the fur laid out before him. A little coarse, but overall soft to the touch.
"C'mon," Naruto, shaking the skin under his palm softly at first and then a little harder. "Itachi needs us, Kyuu; wake up." He shoved hard against what he assumed to be the fox's side.
Naruto felt his way along Kyuubi's flanks to his shoulders to his neck, and finally, his head. The great black eyes were still closed and his upper lip was twitching over his teeth every few seconds, though his eyelids remained still, letting Naruto know he probably wasn't dreaming. So either he was in a deep sleep still or just entering consciousness.
Stepping back to avoid any retribution from a just-woken Kyuubi, Naruto stopped near his neck again and began scratching just where he knew his friend liked it, just behind the juncture between the chin and ear.
First the left leg started going, trying to scratch at the itch Naruto was creating. Then, the ears flicked up and down, the head twitched away, and finally, two great eyes opened.
A deep, gravelly voice, heavy with sleep, accompanied the fox's great maw opening, sharp teeth shining despite the lack of light. "So, Naruto. Where are we?"
The utter lackadaisical manner of his words with the way he stretched his limbs out as far as they'd go in each direction, cracked his neck from side to side, and arched his back up slowly, made it seem like time and urgency held no currency in his world.
"Ame, we're on a scavenger hunt for the Akatsuki." The great fox blinked lazily at Naruto and tilted his head to the side. "We're trying to retrieve all nine rings in three days; right now we're in an old cave with Tomohiro's sphere. The ring's at the top of the sphere past this ancient chakra barrier and I guess…" Naruto trailed, not really sure of anything at the moment.
"And Uchiha wants to see if I can help," Kyuubi finished, seeming to have a better grasp of things than Naruto, and he'd been asleep!
Naruto shrugged. "I guess so," he agreed; that sounded about right. "So will you help?"
Kyuubi rolled his eyes, Naruto knew what that meant.
"Then let's see what Itachi wants," Naruto waved his hand as though inviting Kyuubi to come up and out.
"I got him," Naruto refocused his gaze up to Itachi, who was waiting patiently, staring evenly at Naruto, having been waiting for his return. "He's ready to help," he said, slightly unsure and shrugging one shoulder, "whatever you need."
"I didn't say that exactly," Kyuubi intervened in unnecessarily exaggerated protest, and loudly too, the low cry bouncing around inside Naruto's skull, causing mental bruising, Naruto was sure. He winced slightly against the barrage, but tried his best to suppress it, he didn't want Itachi to think him weak or unable to do a task in any way.
"We don't need any jutsu to crack the barrier," Itachi admitted, watching Naruto's face for signs of comprehension and confusion. Not seeing anything the matter, he tucked a strand of hair behind his ear and swept a hand through his ponytail that landed at the base of his neck. "I believe that if the Kyuubi could extend one of his claws or an extra hand past your own Naruto, he could reach through the barrier unharmed. Ancient chakra against ancient chakra," he elaborated at the still-blank look on Naruto's face.
"Oh," Naruto sang softly. "Will that really be enough?" He didn't mean to question Itachi, though the older boy had drilled in him to always be thinking beyond what your superiors said, and never think they always know better just because of their rank. In fact, Itachi questioned Naruto to question his method and plan, but only when Naruto was quite confident that he had a better idea, of course. This time, he didn't exactly have a better solution, nor did he fear injury by doing this, per se, but he wasn't sure if ancient chakra against ancient chakra really would work.
"What does the Kyuubi say?" Itachi asked, not at all miffed at Naruto's defiance, instead answering with a question of his own that he hoped would clear the matter for both of them.
Naruto involuntarily cast his eyes up to the ceiling as he wandered further back into his mind.
"Tell the Uchiha it'll work. This stuff was made by gods," Kyuubi rolled his eyes at Naruto's internal victory dance and shout of 'I knew it', "only a really powerful jutsu based off a fire element –which would wreck the sphere, obviously, if one isn't careful enough, quick and small precision of reaching through the barrier's tiny holes, or combating ancient chakra can tear this thing down."
Naruto nodded; that made sense, he supposed.
"We'll do it." Naruto sucked in a deep breath, preparing himself for Itachi's instructions.
Itachi lowered his eyelids, appraising Naruto silently; a small crease of worry between his brows. "Naruto, we're not Konoha shinobi anymore. Technically, I'm not your superior; you don't have to do this." Itachi spoke like it was an order, but his face softened, letting Naruto know that he was worried for Naruto's well-being.
But his decision had already been made. Setting his jaw, Naruto shook his head in small, determined movements. "I'm ready." He understood the importance of getting Itachi into the Akatsuki. Well, maybe not in its entirety, but he did understand that it was important and he would help in whatever way he could. He owed everything to Itachi.
Another thing he knew was not to waste time. Once you had your instructions and the go-ahead, you didn't wait. Naruto stopped chakra flow to his right hand and called forth Kyuubi's. Red chakra leaked and bubbled out of his pores, surrounding his hand and extending beyond each finger like steam reaching up and forming another, phantom, hand half a palm above Naruto's. He flexed his own hand, watching in morbid fascination as the phantom hand, which still bubbled and popped in its own heat, flexed at the same time.
He turned back to the chakra barrier to the weakness Itachi pointed out. The small, invisible to his eyes, spot was etched in his mind as he stepped his way closer and closer. He really hoped this would work; he'd rather they get out in one piece and still keep this momentous artifact standing. Once he was standing close enough to the barrier to feel sparks of energy scorching his skin every few seconds, Naruto raised his hand and pushed a tentative finger to the wall.
And it went through. Like a knife through butter, feeling no resistance whatsoever. And what's more, the barrier just took it in without rippling in the slightest. Comforted by the slight success, Naruto pressed down in the balls of his feet to lift himself up and pushed the hand in farther, little by little. His knees shook with the effort to stay balanced, his hand trying to control the phantom one and keep from touching the sphere. He was almost there. Almost. He leaned forward on his toes, fingers nearly brushing the silver edging. He inched a little bit forward, when his knee bumped against the barrier and he jolted forward. He closed his eyes, waiting for his whole body to sizzle into nothing from the strength of the barrier and the hand to cut into the sphere, destroying it forever, when two strong arms wrapped securely around his waist and chest, freezing him to the spot.
"I got you," Itachi's voice breathed in his ear, nearly out of breath himself. It had most likely taken all his will to keep his heart beating and move quick enough to save Naruto from himself. "It's my fault; I should have been behind you from the start."
Naruto let his body relax into Itachi's in relief, knowing that Itachi had him. He didn't even have the time to feel guilty for his clumsiness because Itachi had already nipped that in the bud and blamed it on poor planning.
Opening his eyes, Naruto looked back at the ring, surprised to find it brushing his fingertips. Not wasting a second more, he used Itachi as leverage to push himself up a bit taller and encase the ring in his hand. Then, he slowly edged the fisted hand out from over the sphere and through the barrier. He relaxed with a sigh against Itachi, slumping down the elder's chest and closing his eyes once again. He felt as Itachi backed them a few steps away and then loosened his hold on Naruto, but still tight enough to keep him from falling. And without further prompting, the Kyuubi's chakra hand shrank back into Naruto's skin, letting the ring fall in Itachi's outstretched palm perfectly.
They had done it. They got the third ring and both their bodies and the sphere were still intact. Naruto let himself revel in the moment, listening solely to his and Itachi's breaths evening out. But after several moments, something else became apparent.
It was quiet. Too quiet.
Itachi's grip on Naruto's waist tensed and he pulled Naruto closer to his chest.
The sound of wire being pulled accompanied several knocks of wood against rock and then, the explosion.
Two puppets, round faces with sticks for noses, carved-out circles of eyes and mouths, and wearing tattered deep grey capes that blended perfectly with the surrounding rock, unearthed themselves from the walls and attacked.
Yaso had eaten breakfast, but not a really big one. So it was safe to say that while he wasn't starving as he should be, and as Sasuke and Sakura most likely were, he was hungry. And the sound of bento boxes opening, chopsticks snapping, and food being maneuvered against the plastic was just this side of torture. The sounds of eating continued, slowly, for awhile. Very slowly. Apparently Sakura was on a diet and not eating much anyway, and Sasuke was just a dainty eater –the prude. It only served to make things that much worse. Yaso wasn't opposed to eating normal amounts of a food at a normal human pace of someone who is hungry. But he wasn't going to say anything; they would only take his whining as weakness and tell him to shut up lest Kakashi catch them and fail them on the spot just for funsies. It was clear by now that the man would indeed do something like that without blinking an eye.
Unfortunately, Yaso didn't need to say anything at all to get his point across, his stomach did it for him. Betraying him with a long and low growl as it slowly moved around the air that was devoid of any food whatsoever.
Sakura glared at him, but belied that look a second later when she looked guiltily at her bento that was still more than half uneaten. Sasuke sent him a sidelong glance followed by a hard stab of his chopsticks to a clump of rice, which promptly crumbled. Yaso looked up and away from them, but trying to turn away an obviously guilty face was hard when one was tied to a log.
"Here," Yaso turned to see a bento box shoved in his face, right under his nose. He looked down to see Sasuke's arm extended towards him and his face turned the other way, only his gravity-defying hairstyle pointing up at Yaso's face. It made him feel snubbed even as Sasuke was being kind enough to offer his food.
"Why?" Yaso asked, feeling a little self-conscious as he heard his own loud voice grate out. It was partly part of the façade he put up as Naruto and part of growing up, but for once he wished he could speak in low baritones like Sasuke. But Sasuke either didn't notice or was just used to it, because he didn't react.
"We all have to fight to even think of getting the bells from Kakashi and for that we need to have all members of the team well fed, energized, and prepared. If Naruto's not fed that brings out team down by a third, thus diminishing our chance of succeeding by a third and increasing our chance of failing and," he didn't need to continue to specify what it meant to fail. That message was clear in their heads. They wouldn't fail.
Yaso was impressed, apparently the Uchiha had gotten the meaning of this activity at some point, or maybe he was just sticking to statistics and would do anything to win.
"But Kakashi said –"
"I know what he said," Sasuke cut off Sakura's rant before her voice reached the village. "But he's not here right now," he glared at Sakura as of threatening what he'd do if her voice somehow brought him back early, "And unless you want to fail as a ninja before you've even begun, I suggest we act like a team and start working together."
Yaso knew that he could have said it all better probably, emphasize the team part more than the possible failure, and how working together as a team is what real shinobi do, so they should start now if they really wanted to pass. But he supposed Sasuke did a fair enough job with his little speech too.
"You're right Sasuke." Sakura squared her chin and looked at him with little hearts in her eyes, apparently trying to be determined and cute at the same time. Yaso wondered how that was going for her, but he didn't need to look far. The fact that Sasuke gave her a small sneer accompanied with a condescending look followed by just ignoring her, basically let Yaso know Sakura was no closer to Sasuke's good graces that before –which to say was not at all.
"Here, Naruto." Sakura held up her bowl as well. "Sasuke needs all the food and energy he can get as he's the one really carrying this team –he knows a bunch of ninjutsu and is the best shuriken thrower in the class! He's so cool, unlike you Naruto," she interjected snidely, turning her face briefly to give her version of a sneer at the blond before turning back to Sasuke, "And he can do anything. No one can beat him. As long as we back up Sasuke we'll have those bells in no time." Sakura grinned hopefully at Sasuke yet again, hoping that, this time, he would return the hearts in her eyes and tell her how exactly right she was as he wraps her in his arms. Puh-lease. Yaso rolled his eyes, unseen by the doe-eyed deer and exasperated emo.
"Actually, Sakura-chan, I think we're all supposed to work together and –"
"Shut it, Naruto! Sasuke's saying something."
He wasn't. He hadn't even opened his mouth, but it is said that love is blind, so who knew what Sakura was really seeing?
"Naruto's right," Sasuke said evenly, though the pained look on his face said otherwise. "We need to work as a team to defeat Kakashi. I can't take on a jounin by myself," he scoffed. "And if the dobe's distracted by his empty stomach he'll be as useful to us as the stump he's tied to."
Yaso blinked. He was just insulted and complimented, veiled, at the same time. Sasuke needed him to win against Kakashi, yet degraded him at the same time.
"Hey, teme! Stop calling me names and just feed me! You need me to beat Kakashi, so just get down from your high horse and say so. Nicely," he added, just to be safe.
Sasuke rolled his eyes and tried shoving his bento in Yaso's hands, which were free up to the elbow.
"Dobe," Sasuke muttered, seeing that even as Yaso tried to grab for it, he couldn't exactly feed himself chained like that.
Yaso stuck out his tongue and glared. "Teme!"
"Stop calling Sasuke names!" Sakura screeched, standing up to bop Naruto on the head.
"Sakura-chaaan," Yaso whined. Why was she such a bitch?
"He's so rude, isn't he Sasuke-kun?" Sakura lowered her head demurely and whimpered piteously.
"Sasuke-kun," Yaso whined in imitation, jutting his bottom lip out and fluttering his eyelashes at the boy.
Sasuke looked up at Yaso's call, an odd, constipated and confused look on his face.
"I'm really hungry." Yaso titled his head to the side and tried his best to rub his stomach with the little range of arm movement he had.
Ignoring the both of them, Sasuke stood up and moved right in front of Yaso. He took Sakura's immediately proffered bento, as hers was barely touched and she claimed to not wanting anymore. Taking the chopsticks, he gathered a bit of food between the utensils and shoved a mouthful into Yaso's.
"Mmph!" Yaso tried and failed swearing through a mouthful of rice and eggs. He made sure to swallow –no point in wasting a good lunch –before opening his mouth to yell and possibly try to hurl another swear Sasuke's way. But all thoughts of tirades stopped when Yaso sensed a powerful chakra suddenly, coming in fast.
"I don't believe it!" Kakashi's voice roared over them like a tsunami crashing down. All three of them cowered under the barrage, eyes wide and panicked. The sky seemed to darken and Kakashi's masked face loomed ominously in front of them, single eye narrowed in rage.
"You guys all…"
They waited for it. And waited for it.
And abruptly, Kakashi smiled.
All who are reading this, smile! Just for the heck of it and leave people wondering why.