+Six Years Later+
Sasuke's sluggish steps dimmed in his wake, the usual dull silence accompanying his walk through the woods. ANBU attire produced a solemn image, but the lack of mask concluded the philosophy of 'one without fear'. His sword, blessed as Kusanagi, remained securely strapped to his back, perfecting the image of a solitary warrior.
The moon maimed luminosity through the shallow openings of the leafs, and the temperature made for an enjoyable crossing in a plundered country. So a habit of it was concluded; at least, when his presence murmured through the Leaf Village. A melancholic sigh escaped his orofice. Much plagued his mind these days. Mostly about the Fourth Shinobi World War, a conflict scarring the Elemental lands for over six years. It was also about the same time the Leaf gained one of its greatest protectors, and protect it he has— various times in fact.
Throughout the six years, Sasuke, Killer Bee, the Shinobi Alliance and the four Kages repelled against the forces of the now living Uchiha Madara, and Uchiha Obito. Because of the war, much was lost, and nothing was gained. Kumogakure and Iwagakure for example.
Both villages were taken while most of their shinobi were out, and slowly, both villages came down under their control. Be via Sharingan or willingly, the remainder of the Shinobi Alliance did not know for certain. However, it mattered not. The shinobi from those villages now wielded the Hitai-ate of each of their nations, and attacked the Shinobi Alliance without mercy.
Sasuke mingled with the hands in his pockets, taking a moment to stare at a tree that seemed oddly familiar. He squinted his eyes and tried to recall, but no matter how hard he tried, it just returned as a fumbled memory of unknown sequences. His Sharingan eyes, which had accustomed themselves to remain active, a custom he grew into, arose to examine it further. Perhaps it was the times of war, or he just felt safer with a menial amount of chakra always fluctuating through his coils.
Finally, after a few seconds, it became obvious. This was the area where Team Seven fought Gaara.
"Dobe..." Sasuke sighed and leaned against the tree, mentally tired. His knees loosened, and slowly, he slid down the hard wood with little effort. One that was constantly in his musings was Naruto. The one who was willing to go through hell to try and bring him out of the darkness that he had shrouded himself into, and for nothing in return.
When he was told Danzo was the perpetrator, hell seemed kind and heartwarming compared to the rage and killer intent he had released upon the village. Had the allegiance with the Leaf, and his goal of becoming Hokage not interline with the old man's, he'd of sliced the bastards neck with a rusty kunai years ago. Even if he had to kill half of Konohas forces in the process.
He had already attempted to kill him. Back when the Kage Summit took place, and when the dark fool was elected commander of the Shinobi Alliance. Unfortunately, that was why he failed in killing him. For the other Kages had got in his way. Apparently, they were unwilling to let their newly elected commander perish by his hand. He was able to get out alive thanks to Uchiha Obito, who was at first thought to be dead, but was negated by the fact that the real Uchiha Madara was revived.
When the war had begun, he was still recuperating after claiming Itachi's eyes as his own. After healing, he received an opportunity that seldom occurs. He met Itachi in this world; through the Edo Tensei. Unfortunately, it wasn't the peaceful chat he had hoped for, since his brother was under Kabuto's control at the time. Nonetheless, he had his supposedly flawless eyes opened by his brother.
The elder Uchiha had confessed to killing the clan with Obito's help, and hoped for him to redeem himself, as he never could or had the opportunity. This resulted in confusion towards the path he was leading. The Curse of Hatred that all his clansmen died from seemed unreliable after his conversation with him. So now, here he was, alive. Because unlike them, he surpassed such a curse.
The Shinobi Alliance did not press charges when he decided to join the Leaf for obvious reasons— they needed all the help they could get. But even then, the Shinobi Alliance was facing defeat in the war, and Sasuke knew it was mere time that was necessary for them to fall. The ones responsible for keeping the Shinobi Alliance going in the first place was Sasuke himself, Killer Bee and the Four Kages.
Strangely, one of the Kage's was missing; the Mizukage. Many messenger hawks were sent to ask for her aid, but they never got a response from her. Nor the hawks. After which they sent shinobi to escort the message, and again they got no response. Nor the Shinobi. He would of gone himself, but he was needed in the front lines. So the matter was dropped.
She didn't even come to the Kage Summit, which was even more surprising. But Sasuke didn't think much of it. He doubted anything would of changed had she gone, anyways...
Sasuke didn't bother to exert any amount of strength towards the direction his name was called. He already knew who the owner of that seldomly soft voice was. "Sakura, huh?" Sasuke phrased, his voice emotionless and subtle.
He and Sakura had been growing oddly close these days, which he was sure Naruto's untimely death was to blame. Perhaps it had to do with finding comfort with each other, to deal with their loss. He still found her a bit annoying, though. She always found him when he wanted to be alone. It was really, disconcerting. "What is it?"
Sakura landed before him, flak jacket and shinobi pants still in use. Her hair was short, but a lot neater than when she was younger, and still as pink as the sakura petals her name represented. However, on her partially revealed forehead, she had the Strength of a Hundred seal, formed into the shape of a rhombus-like marking. Her lisps were glossed red, and attracted more attention, pronouncing her womanly air further.
The 22 year old crossed her arms under her well endowed chest, sighing at Sasuke's actions. She knew he wanted to be alone. That's why he was in the forests this late at night. But there were things in the village that required the attention of the Uchiha clan head. "You're out here this late, because...?"
"It was a beautiful night." Sasuke excused, his lips pursed and his arms comfortably securing his head from the hard bark of the tree.
"You're miles away from the village. What if some assassin attacked you?" Sakura asked, her patience thinning by the normal attitude of the Uchiha— stuck up.
"Then I'll kill him and get back to the village in time for supper." Simply as that, Sasuke turned back to the brilliant blinking star's, considering to make it some sort of hobby. Just like Shikamaru watched clouds, he would watch stars.
Sasuke stealthily caught Sakura from the corner of his Sharingan eye. He grunted. The frown on her face made her usually attractive self seem rough and uncoiling. Sasuke shook his head softly and Sakura looked at him oddly. Somewhere down the road of the war, he must've hit his head pretty damn hard if his teammate was looking significantly attractive.
Sakura deadpanned and sighed. She could never tell when Sasuke was serious, or if he was trying to avoid a conversation by brushing away the subject. "You do know they need you in the village, right?"
"What for, liar?"
"What do you think?!"
"Aside from breeding?"
Sasuke remained quiet. Simply to try and remember what he had to do today and just to annoy Sakura by not responding.
The girl grinded her teeth in lack of patience.
Sasuke remained oblivious, although he was secretly amused by her irritated face. "Oh." A thought popped into his mind and the answer came with. "Something about a meeting right? They were going to discuss something about a myth... and asking for its help... Him or her... I don't know. I don't care either. That might be the reason I'm here. It all just sounds like speculation to me."
"Speculation or not, Sasuke-kun. You have a duty that you need to uphold as the head of the Uchiha clan." Sakura uncrossed her arms, a scolding tone to her whine. "Besides, Danzo said he needed all the Rookies after the meeting. We're all getting deployed to the front lines in Suna in a few days, after all..."
She was sick and traumatized of all this fighting. Sick because it was a never ending river of blood, a nightmare for any medic. And traumatized because Shino was killed by a Bijuu Bomb. He died while distracting one of Madara's Edo Tensei Jinchūriki's so she, Hinata, Tenten and various companies of shinobi could get away.
Sasuke knew why she sounded so dismal over going to the front. After getting ambushed in the corners of Kumo's borders, Shino was killed when Sasuke failed to hold back all seven of Madara's Jinchuuriki's. Even with his Complete Susanoo Stabilized, they were just too much for him to handle alone. Shino made the noble sacrifice with an entire platoon of Shinobi and took the attention from the six tails, who was aiming to annihilate the retreating companies from the hills. This, however, resulted with his death.
He sighed and unhurriedly stood back up, a bit lazy even. He turned and started making his way towards the village, shoving his hands in his pockets to shield them from the bristling coldness in the atmosphere. He stopped and noticed Sakura wasn't following him. He turned his head, but his body remained rooted. "Sakura."
Sakura was shooken out of her depressed thoughts by Sasuke's oddly kind and caring voice. Something alien and unknown to his usually cold, non-caring self.
"I swear I won't let anything happen to any of us while I draw breath. Even if it kills me, I'll keep you, and everyone safe. No matter the cost."
Sakura felt her cheeks warm, and her stomach teased by the familiar sensation of the love she felt for Sasuke. Her heart sped up, completely shrouded in warmth, and she clutched it in repercussion, a futile attempt to try and slow down the emotions that were threatening to try and take her consciousness. "T-thank you." She stuttered, but she didn't care. The words that left Sasuke's lips were still fresh in her mind, and they just kept replaying in an unending album of emotions.
Sasuke smirked his usual cocky way. The pink in her cheeks were seen and stored thanks to his Sharingan, ready for later evaluation. "Come on, let's get this over with. We're all leaving in a few days and I need to be rested to make sure we all come back alive."
Sakura blinked twice, a dazed confusion processing the response, until Sasuke's words finally registered in her mind. "A-ah, hai!" Hurriedly, she matched Sasuke's pace.
"Preposterous!" The civilian side of the Leaf council shouted. A complete atrocity was what Tsunade, the head of the Senju clan proposed.
Sasuke seemed bored as the heated discussion went by, but even he was surprised to learn that the supposed legend, the 'Rikudou Sennin', actually existed. Which meant that the 'floating planet' created by the same person existed, as well. However, every time he heard of such crap, it was either foolish rumors, or civilians talking just to have something to speak about. But Sasuke was no fool, not when his intellect was second to none but the Nara clan, or Sakura herself.
There were facts behind such a legend, such as the disappearance of the Land of Water and the shinobi who were sent towards them to deliver a message, who never returned. Everything pointed to one conclusion; shit was somehow getting around his Sharingan eyes. He didn't like it when shit was hidden from his Sharingan eyes.
"How annoying..." Sasuke muttered, his crimson eyes boring into the civilian side of the table.
The meeting room fell silent, and all eyes went for the head of the Uchiha clan, expectant of whatever he had to say. "Don't be foolish to dismiss rumors so easily. They all have to source from somewhere, and Just like legends, they're all based on real occurrences. If Senju-san says that Koyuki-sama knows of this 'Rikudou Sennin', then there must be some truth to such a claim. Do not dismiss the word of not only a Daimyo, but one of our honorable and previous Hokage's."
"I agree with Uchiha-san." Danzo stated, the Rokudaime Hokage of Konoha. "But what of it? If I may ask, Senju-san." The man had a suspicion of what the woman would suggest, but he was waiting for conformation, while at the same time calculating what such an occurrence would bring to the future of this losing war.
Tsunade nodded towards Sasuke, thanking him for his support. She grasped her fingers and placed her elbows on the table, ready to address the council. "According to Koyuki-sama, her and his country, are both well endowed in a trade system that they currently have with each other. They keep in contact constantly and seem to be good friends, even providing defense for the Land of Spring, a neutral country, to protect it from any harm that this war may produce. According to her, the man sent a single platoon of 60 shinobi capable of manipulating leafs. She said they can maneuver hundreds at a time and that they damage similar to hundreds of small blades. They successfully fended off an entire company of Iwa shinobi and came out victorious. Without a single casualty in their part-"
"A single platoon defeated an entire company without any losses?!" The civilian council gasped in denial and broke into shouts, while the clan heads talked amongst themselves in complete astonishment.
Danzo's eyes widened, and Sasuke had the courtesy to seem surprised for such a feat. For a platoon of 60 shinobi to fight off an entire company of 250 experienced Iwa nin... It was beyond comprehensible how they could pull it off. The only logical reason was that they had a strategical genius in the defender's side, and even then, it barely made any logical or rational sense.
"We must seek their aid!"
"But how would we contact them?!"
"But what if they ask for retribution?!"
"It matters not! With them we could win!"
"Don't be foolish! We must first see what could be lost...!"
"Enough!" Danzo interrupted, the ranting of the civilian council leaving an irritating ringing in his ear. "Shikaku, what are the chances of success for the Shinobi Alliance should we continue alone?"
Shikaku went over all data available in his top notch and unparalleled mind. He took everything into account. From the Kages that are in Suna in the front lines, to the shinobi outside guarding the Hokage's building. "None. Even if by some miracle Uchiha-san and Bee-sama managed to kill Madara and Obito, we would still have Kabuto and his Edo Tensei Jutsu. Meaning we'd still have to fight against various Kage level shinobi, whiles at the same time countering the attacks of the combined armies of Kumo and Iwa. Which outnumber us six to one. And that's not counting the Bijū's he has in his possession. There is no victory alone."
"But what of the other Kages in Suna?!"
"Surely Uchiha-sama can defeat the Bijū?!"
"Silence." Danzo sighed and rubbed his temples with his available hand. Did they think the Uchiha was invincible? "What if he we had the assistance of this, 'Rikudou Sennin'? What would be the outcome then?"
Shikaku made an effort to scratch the back of his head in discomfort. All this thinking was driving him into a migraine. "How troublesome... I simply don't know, not when the capabilities of this man and his country are unknown. But I will tell you this, just a shred of help from anyone could increment our chances tremendously."
Aburame Shibi looked at the options from all logical standpoints and agreed with the head of the Nara clan. Like mostly everyone, he had a great hatred for the enemy, but his blazed with the essence of an entire star. The death of his son at the hands of the enemy logically caused the notion. Such an action could not be forgiven. "If we do not gain their assistance, then we will fall. Logically, losing Suna would be our last straw, for we would be surrounded— strategically speaking."
"Then it is obvious." The Hyūga clan head, Hyūga Hiashi proclaimed. "Receiving their aid would certainly help us in this long and tiring war. Sooner or later, they will have to get involved. Even if they are hidden, nothing remains hidden for long. Especially not an entire nation."
All the clan heads nodded their heads in agreement, all in accordance that it was the most logical option of all.
"Then," Tsunade spoke, all curious eyes turning to her. "Should I ask Koyuki-sama for a favor?"
All eyes now turned to Danzo for conformation, the commander of the Shinobi Alliance. The man stared back indifferent, but deep inside he knew there was no other option. He was not a man to admit a weakness, but even he knew it was only a matter of time for them to fall. He locked his one eye with Tsunade's, his choice made. "We will ask for this mans aid. There is no other option..."
Hyūga Hiashi stalked through the maze that was his home. The white paper walls, the luxurious furniture and the artistic paintings spoke of nobility. The Hyūga clan was the definition of nobility. To any other it certainly would be a maze, but to those that knew the ups and downs of the estate; it was as simple as recollecting recent memories. Finally, he arrived where he desired and cleared his throat softly. "Daughter," he spoke lowly, but high enough to make his presence known. "I am entering."
The man calmly slid the door open. The sight of his daughter came to him, her damaged, scratched and dusty ANBU equipment in place. She stood in the middle of her room, staring at that picture, again. Hiashi sighed and took a step in to slide the door behind him. "Hinata, again you are staring at that picture I see."
The fully matured and beautiful indigo haired woman, which attracted the opposite sex like the earth attracted the moon, did not acknowledge her father's words. Instead, she kept staring at the worn picture of a scowling Naruto with Team Seven. A picture Sakura had given her as an 18th birthday present.
After a suffocating minute, she slid the picture into her back pocket and turned towards her father. No day had passed without the blond crossing her mind, no day had passed without having thoughts of killing Danzo, and no day had passed without remembering how much she still loves him.
"Tou-sama." Hinata bowed low, almost mockingly, and stood straight once more. The respectful tone in her voice was far more balanced and refined than when she was younger. "What did you wish to speak of?"
Hiashi mentally sighed and lamented every action he had done towards his daughter. Ever since the blond Jinchūriki was killed, -a decision he disagreed with Danzo- his daughter had become cold and unreachable to him.
She was exactly what he wanted from a daughter, skilled, powerful, prodigious, and a mastermind of deception. Yet, he felt saddened that she became so. When he was around her, she never smiled, laughed, or did anything that a normal woman her age would do. The only time he saw any emotion in her eyes, was when he came into her room to catch her staring at that picture.
Maybe she secretly resented him and she thought he no longer deserved to have her blinding smile. Or maybe it was his disapproval of the relation she had with the Jinchūriki prior he became the hero who saved the Leaf, and now she felt like releasing her smitten hate on him. But like any father, if that would help her deal with what happened, he would gladly take the roll of the sponge that would absorb her unending sorrow.
"The meeting is over. It was decided to ask for the help of this man with the title of, Rikudou Sennin." Hiashi informed, examining the blood on her hands and the damaged nails that adorned her fingers. "I see you have been training; a wise decision. But are you not here to rest for the time being? When will you be deployed back to Suna?"
"Hai, but it is beneficial to not let my skills waver." Hinata excused. "We will be returning to the front in a few days. I must be ready. It is late, Tou-sama. Will you please allow me to rest?"
Hiashi nodded and made way for the door, but stopped once more and turned his head towards the woman, now considered the second genius of the Hyūga clan. "I am proud of you, daughter." With that said, the man left the chambers and went for his own.
Hinata watched her father leave and gave a tiresome sigh. Why did he always walk in when she was staring at Naruto's picture? She took it out once more and felt her eyes sting with the familiar agony of sadness. Followed by the release of tears once more being shed by her lavender eyes. The tears met the picture and found their way down the image and onto the wooden floor. The sound rebounded in her hollow room, just like her heart... What she would give to have the blond back in her arms. "Naruto..."
+On Top of the Raikage's Building+
Obito gawked at Madara, a bit surprised and amused. The look of malevolence the man poised made him feel oddly entertained. "You wish to send five companies of Kumo Shinobi and five Jinchūriki's to Suna?" Obito asked, his war time outfit flapping in the bucolic wind. However, the mask that he once wore in his Akatsuki days was long forgotten. "For what purpose? Neither Suna or Konoha is of any use to us."
The revived Uchiha Madara nodded, admittedly. He wore a high collared, black shirt with the Uchiha clan's crest on the back, which the man tended to leave slightly open, while his blue pants were bandaged around his shins for mobility. Around his waist, he had a sash that held a sack, presumably containing his shinobi equipment.
"That's true. However, I feel that this meaningless war has gone long enough. We will take Suna and then Konoha to get ahold of the Hachibi. Then we will have to find some way to get the Kyūbi's chakra, since the Jinchuuriki containing it has been killed along with the beast... The Hokage made a wise move with that, I must say."
"Indeed he did." Both men turned back to see a fairly tall man wearing full white clothing. (1) He was a former candidate of the Legendary Swordsmen of the Mist, a man who betrayed his country and comrades by killing the first Mizukage, and the man who took six other in their own paths of power. Sōsuke Aizen, the original candidate for the title of the First of Seven Swordsmen.
"Why don't you let Ulqiorra lead them. It is about time we showed the world what we are truly capable of, is it not?" The man offered, a hand running through his stylishly brown hair. He stepped up to the edge of the roof that gave a fine view of Kumo and sneered wickedly. What nice weather.
"I agree." Madara announced, turning back to examine one of his villages. He was the one responsible for reviving the legend known as Sōsuke Aizen, including his six subordinates. Aizen was a shinobi to which even he doubted would come out unscathed without seriously going all out.
He could feel the man's power radiating like a volcano about to burst. But thanks to that sword on his hip, his power was sealed until Aizen decided it was needed to Release. "Ulqiorra has been a bit antsy about doing nothing for our cause. This should get him back in a good mood." Madara chuckled and his Sharingan eyes glowered in a show of immense power. "I'll send him a message to head for Suna in a few days."
Madara unfolded his arms and turned on his heel, intent on getting back to where he was needed. "For now, I'll try and summon the Gedō Mazō once more. It's been years since I've been able to call for it. I do not comprehend why we can no longer do it, there must be something interfering with the summoning process."
Madara was both intrigued and annoyed. The Gedō Mazō had become inaccessible for both he and Obito for some time now. However, the Bijū's chakra remained locked inside the Jinchūriki's, who were brought back by the Edo Tensei at the time. At least that was good news. 'But still... to separate me and Obito from summoning the Gedō Mazō... It would take someone with immense power to seal it from us, when the Sage of the Six Paths couldn't...'
(1): Arrancar clothing.