The Girl Who Spun Through Time
No, that's not right.
I cannot reach her.
No matter how far Hinata ran, the sounds of the battle refused to fade. Her heartbeat competed with the crash of shattering earth, and her panting breath with shearing water, punctuated by the occasional explosion or crack of what sounded like lightning. There was no screaming, no words of any kind; her footfalls didn't make a sound as she sped through the streets of Amegakure, trying to escape the relentless sound, and it only made the now distant battle seem louder.
The chaos seemed to surround her. She knew that wasn't the case. It was all far behind her now. That didn't stop her from flinching at every burst of violent sound.
She deserved it, didn't she? She deserved this kind of fear. This was all her fault. Hinata didn't know what she had done in her brief time in the past, but it must have caused this: it was the only conclusion she could come to. Had it been telling Danzo Shimura everything she had? She'd left out so much out of deference to the Hokage. Maybe it had been too much, and the man had acted on incomplete information? But how could that have led to this?
Hinata didn't know, but that didn't matter, because in truth she did not care. The dying world, the undead shinobi, her own death: she was responsible for it all, in the end. The specifics didn't matter.
She just wanted to go home, but she didn't deserve that either. Torn between fear, guilt, self-loathing, and pure survival instincts, the Hyuuga ran on, deeper into the city.
Her Byakugan was active, but Hinata couldn't see what it did. Not really. She was trapped inside her own head, a detached consciousness crushed down into the back of her mind. Her eyes catalogued a thousand different motions and a million meaningless actions, but Hinata took in none of it.
A glimpse of distinctive purple and orange.
Hinata stopped in her tracks. Her mind went blank.
He was there. Right there. Less than a kilometer away.
Alone, moving across the rooftops of Amegakure towards the battle she'd fled from. His eyes were fixed forward. His Akatsuki cloak streamed out behind him; the man had more piercings than when she'd faced him in Konoha.
Hinata's head turned to track him, though it didn't need to. Suddenly, the night air seemed crisp and clear instead of thick and opaque. Her sweat froze instantly; her breathing sped up, but her heart slowed down, just a little. She felt muscles all along her back tense, and her legs coil.
She sprung upwards, landing flawlessly on the wall of a nearby building and raced up it, towards roof level. For the first time, a coherent thought broke through the storm of terror and disgust.
'It's his fault.'
Hinata reached the roof and leveled out, gaining speed. Amegakure was a city completely lacking in symmetry, but the Hyuuga didn't let it slow her down as she tore across the skyline like a lilac bolt. She burned chakra recklessly, reinforcing her legs as she rocketed horizontally from one rooftop to another, leaving cracked concrete and shallow trenches in sheet metal in her wake.
Less than four hundred meters now. Pain had no idea she was coming: he was entirely focused on getting to the fight, and his travel speed was slightly lower than hers. Hinata's right hand fished into one of the pockets of her flak jacket, dragging out a kunai along with the meter of steel wire that had been resting there since she found the jacket.
A meter wasn't much, but she could work with it.
'Why are you doing this?'
She murdered the thought without ceremony, entirely focused on her target.
Her fingers tied the wire through the kunai with a sturdy knot, forming a simple noose. One hundred meters now. Imminent contact.
Pain was in between two buildings, jumping the divide cut into the rooftops by a deep alley, when he realized Hinata was heading towards him. His head turned; one of his eyebrows raised slightly. Hinata went airborne for the last time, hurtling towards Pain.
She hurled the kunai, and the man blinked.
The knife missed: Pain ducked, an unconcerned movement, and it sailed over his head. But the wire trailing it was hanging low, and it slipped under his chin. The knot tightened, the noose shrinking–
Pain's hand shot up, and the wire dug shallow cuts into his fingers. Almost faster than Hinata could see, he ripped the noose upwards, clearing his neck. The kunai plummeted into the darkness of the alley, lost. A moment later, he landed on the roof; Hinata landed about ten feet to his left.
As he turned towards her, the Hyuuga charged.
The man stood tall, Rinnegan piercing her. He didn't shift at all as she drew closer, fists straightening into knives.
"Hyuuga," the man asked, his voice like a blade wrapped in cloth. "What are you doing?"
She didn't respond: instead, she went after him with narrowed hands. She wasn't trying to beat him. Hinata knew that was impossible. Her last fight with him, less than twenty four hours ago by her perception, had conclusively proved that.
But she didn't need to win. She just needed him to hit back at the right time, and then she could be free.
The man swept out of the way, casually avoiding her combo. Deja vu. Hinata swept to the left, determined to elicit a reaction. Once more, he glided past her, piercing flat eyes digging into her.
"Stop," he said with a confused frown, and for a moment Hinata almost wanted to listen to him. She couldn't tell if it was because of how pointless everything seemed at that exact moment, or another Rinnegan genjutsu. She gritted her teeth and rushed back, desperate to land even a glancing blow. "I am not your enemy."
'Hit me,' she almost said, tracing him as he deflected another set of Juuken strikes with lightning-fast palm strikes.
'I deserve it, don't I?'
No, that wasn't right. This was all his fault, not hers. Wasn't it? If he hadn't destroyed the village, hurt Naruto, hurt her, none of this would be happening.
A Lion's Fist flared into existence around her right hand, and the chakra aura brushed Pain's side as he slipped around her. The man twitched, and Hinata took advantage of the momentary hesitation, hurling herself to the side in an attempt to body check him.
Pain leapt over her, and for the first time since she'd attacked, hit back.
Hinata saw the kick coming, but it was completely beyond her capability to avoid it. Pain's foot smashed into her shoulder blade, throwing her across the rooftop. She painfully tumbled, ending up lying on her side with her arm crushed under her body.
"Kugh." She groaned, pulling herself to her feet. Pain just watched her, Rinnegan gleaming. She refused to make eye contact.
"I don't have time for this," he said, walking towards her. "Cease."
Hinata painfully shot to her feet, propelling herself like a rocket at Pain.
"No!" she shouted.
'Childish.' The silent, internal words smashed her down, turning her charge into a listless stumble. And then, just half a breath afterwards-
That was a woman's voice, not Pain's. Hinata had heard it before. A second later, as paper swept out of the night air to constrict both her arms and lift her slightly into the air, spread-eagle, Hinata knew without a doubt who'd stopped her.
Konan floated down in front of her, interposing herself between her and Pain. The woman looked irritated, but it was more than that. The Byakugan saw the fear and tenseness behind the pettier emotion.
"Nagato, go. I've got her," Konan said, her voice clipped, and Pain sprinted off into the night towards the battle without hesitation.
Nagato. Hinata watched Pain go.
Nagato. That was the name he'd responded to.
Nagato. No sane parent named their child Pain. It was entirely possible Pain's parents hadn't been sane, of course, but this was the name he had responded to, when spoken by another Akatsuki member.
"Hyuuga." Konan's voice snapped Hinata back to the present. "What were you doing?"
Hinata stared at her with flat eyes. Konan saw something there, and recoiled, just a little bit.
What had she been trying to do?
No, that wasn't it. That was too complicated. It was something simpler.
'I was trying to die.'
The words felt right, but Hinata couldn't bring herself to say them.
'It's all my fault.'
There, the same feeling. The exact same feeling. She really was-
"What did you just say?"
Hinata felt a tear escape her eye, and was buried in shame. Was she really crying in front of an S-ranked international criminal? The most absurd of any of the absurdities than had borne her down over the last day. And yet, it stung the most. Her Byakugan slipped away.
"Sakura and Sasuke told me what you told them," Konan said. Hinata could barely see her: she looked blurry in the dark. "Who you are. Why you're here." The paper woman stepped forward. She was still constricting Hinata's arms. The Hyuuga wondered if it was for the same reason as before.
"Hinata," Konan said, "This isn't your fault."
"It is." Hinata didn't doubt it. The woman was speaking empty words. She couldn't possible know what she was talking about. She was Akatsuki. She couldn't be trusted. Pointless. Pointless pointless pointless-
"However high an opinion you may have of your ability to change the past," Konan said, and the words felt like a slap. Hinata looked up, feeling her face twitching. "You could not have brought this to pass. Orochimaru's actions were beyond your control."
"But whatever I did caused them." Hinata didn't really know why she was arguing.
"Impossible," Konan shot back. The paper around Hinata's arms twisted; it didn't seem like a conscious action. "Madara was only able to be resurrected because the Yondaime had slain him over a decade before. If that did not come to pass in your… time, than it must have been because he was still alive."
Hinata blinked. The world grew a bit clearer.
Konan shook her head, piercing her with amber eyes. "It is the only logical conclusion. What could you have done, that would alter Orochimaru's actions? You are not that important."
The words for cruel, but they were spoken with kindness. Hinata sucked in a breath.
"You don't know what you're talking about." She finally managed to say the words.
"Don't insult me," Konan said, the paper around Hinata's arms tightening once more. "You're deluding yourself. It's clear to me: wherever you came from is different from this place. There were no remains for Orochimaru to pillage. You traveled back to after Madara's death. What could you have done?"
The words surrounded HInata's mind, pressing in, squeezing it. There was a release of pressure: Hinata's brain burst like a grape, releasing the burning poison that had been building up inside it. The sounds of the distant battle vanished: Konan vanished.
Hinata hung her head. Closed her eyes. The chill night air brushed against her cheek, the back of her neck, raising goosebumps. She couldn't see anything but the cool darkness behind her eyelids. The loneliness was refreshing.
It reminded her of the inbetween place, where it had been this dark and yet blindingly bright. Full of ribbons garbed in impossible colors, of infinite miniscule space and size. She'd been lost in that inbetween, with so many ribbons they couldn't be counted.
That place had been some kind of waystation. She'd touched one ribbon and had been drawn into the past. And there, a couple hours later, another ribbon had emerged from the hole she'd left and devoured her.
The impossible lights were curls of time and space. She understood that, instinctually. Correlation was not causation, but with the available information, that was the logical conclusion.
There had been so many of them. She'd assumed, unconsciously, that each of them was a different part of the past. Maybe even the future. Separated by a year, maybe? She hadn't really considered the specifics, but nevertheless to her time had seemed a single concrete line, extending before and ahead of her into infinity.
But if what Konan was telling her was true, that was impossible. She hadn't been yanked backwards along a shifting line. She had been pulled sideways. Away from what she knew, into a different time.
One she hadn't touched.
Hinata coughed, but deep in her chest, she knew it was the vestiges of a laugh.
She didn't know if Konan understood what she had just did, but when it came down to it she hardly cared. This wasn't Hinata Hyuuga's fault. She was just trapped in this horrible reality: she wasn't the architect of this future.
The thought set her free.
"I'm going to release you," Konan said, slowly, and the paper constricting Hinata's arms unfolded just as gradually as the words. The Hyuuga dropped to the roof, landing with one hand splayed flat.
"Now," the paper woman said, watching her cautiously. Hinata looked up, wishing she could make clear the gratitude welling up in her chest. She couldn't imagine what could possibly do justice to it. "You need to get somewhere safe. Konoha's-"
There was a yellow flash.
Hinata knew what to do now, when she saw that burst of impossible movement. She dove backwards, her Byakugan activating. Konan did the same, jolting away from the sudden color, her wings flaring out and growing sharp.
The Yondaime stood tall where Hinata had been a moment before, triple-pronged knives clenched in both fists. He glanced back at Hinata, a lightning motion, before refocusing on Konan.
"Hinata, run," Naruto's father said, and Hinata found herself pinned to the spot by that concept. "I've got her."
"Yondaime," Konan said, considering the undead Hokage. "Please, don't turn this sanctuary into a place of violence." Her expression hardened: Hinata saw the woman who'd joined the Akatsuki, and not the one who had saved her just a minute before. "Any more than you already have."
"Give up, Akatsuki," Minato Namikaze said. "Madara's plan is finished. You won't be enslaving what's left of the world, even the ones you've gathered here. When the Shodai is done with him, we can finally finish Orochimaru's mistakes."
"You fool," Konan said quietly. "This is all a misunderstanding. If you'd just listened-"
Minato attacked, faster than Hinata could reasonably track. One of Konan's wings fell away, shorn in half, before it reformed into a swarm of razor butterflies. The woman swept forward in a rain of paper daggers, and the Yondaime impossibly twisted through the attack, stuttering in and out of visibility.
Then the whole flurry exploded in a krump of white heat and blinding light, blowing Hinata off her feet. The blast engulfed the Yondaime entirely, but despite the disorientating pressure wave, Hinata's Byakugan saw the truth: fiery shockwaves crawled along the Hokage's skin, peeling back parchment-flesh, before he simply vanished. Not consumed by the explosion: simple there one moment, and gone the next.
The Fourth Hokage caught her, setting her on her feet. Hinata had barely noticed the man appearing behind her. Even after seeing his technique in action several times she still couldn't comprehend his speed. Konan reformed in front of the both of them, paper flocking together into the shape of a woman.
"Hinata," she said, and the Yondaime gently pushed Hinata aside, interspersing himself between the two women. He raised one pronged knife: in the other hand, a Rasengan started to form, small and violent. "Listen."
Hinata did. The Yondaime stepped forward, his face blank.
"Deep down, all Madara wanted to do was save people." Konan's eyes narrowed. "But that aspiration was poisoned by ambition and fear, and became hatred. Do you understand? You are in a unique position: it may seem there is little you can do, but you have to try!"
Then, the Fourth Hokage was attacking, driving her back. Hinata watched every blow, but her mind was elsewhere.
She looked across the city as half-formed thoughts crawled across her mind. To her dull surprise, Pain was nowhere to be seen, along with many of the Edo Tensei Minato had arrived with. Madara was still fighting what looked like the First and Third Hokage.
'It may seem there is little you can do.'
Hinata took a step forward.
'But you have to try.'
Before she knew it, she was running back towards the battlefield. The Yondaime did not chase her: whether it was because he was preoccupied with Konan or because he didn't understand her aim, Hinata did not know, and ultimately she didn't care.
She was here because of the Rinnegan; now, the only one nearby was Madara's. She had to reach him.
The distance closed as though in a dream. Hinata barely understood how she moved from one rooftop to the next. Her feet carried her without effort; her body was lighter than air. The world listlessly sped past, the demolished meadow she'd fled from drawing closer.
The Rinnegan had gotten her here. Maybe it could return her home.
Less than five-hundred meters now. Madara was on his knees, pinned to the ground by an enormous red torii. Hinata understood now where so many of the Edo Tensei had gone: the meadow was now a grey wasteland of ash and parchment, covered in the remains of dozens of former ninja. The whole place writhed with horrible animus, as dismembered shinobi attempted and failed to reconstitute themselves. Half of a woman's head gave Madara a full glare, her black-blue eyes dreadfully focused.
Hinata had no doubt it was some technique of Madara's that was quelling their efforts. The whole place hummed with powerful chakra, much of it tinged with the Uchiha's distinct cold.
Three-hundred meters. Hinata took one last leap, plummeting off the last of the buildings. The fall was long, perhaps sixty feet, but it wasn't of consequence to a prepared shinobi. Hinata hit the ground without slowing down, carving a small channel through the dismembered Edo's. A hand grasped at her ankle, but she was going fast enough to break free of its grip without issue.
One-hundred meters. The Shodai glanced back at her; Hashirama Senju's face was somehow even more imposing in person than it was carved in stone. His brow creased. Without the Byakugan, Hinata couldn't have seen it. But aside from the infinitesimal reaction, he didn't seem to pay her much mind. The First Hokage turned back to Madara, his knees bent and his hands clasped together as if in prayer.
Next to him, the Sandaime looked away from the pinned Uchiha to Hinata, confusion clear in his eyes.
It took Hinata crossing another fifty meters, scattering ash in her wake, before the Third Hokage took a step towards her.
"Hyuuga?" he asked. "You're… alive. What are you doing here?"
The man sounded more subdued than Hinata had ever heard him. Something had gone out of his voice. She slowed down her pace, unsure of what to say.
"A live one, Saru?" The First Hokage called back in a strained voice. Hinata could see his tight grin through the back of his head. "And a Hyuuga besides! That's good news!" The man's voice called Hinata's attention to his actions; now, with her full attention, she could see the way Madara's chakra fluctuated and retreated at the touch of the torii, how the Shodai's chakra relentlessly bore the Uchiha down. Both the men seemed on the verge of scattering into scraps, though Madara was degrading much more rapidly.
Her heart froze.
"Are you sealing him?" Hinata heard herself ask, and she marveled at how calm she sounded.
The Sandaime nodded. "Don't worry," he said, trying to give her a calming smile. His discoloured eyes and cracked face butchered the familiar expression. "He won't be able to harm you, or anyone else. This business will finally draw to a close."
The only way back.
'You have to try.'
The First Hokage was about to seal her only way back. There was no way he would stop at Hinata's request; for that matter, there was no guarantee Madara would listen to her in the first place. Now that she was here, seeing two dead legends struggle, the dream-like torpor that had kept her company as she ran was slipping away, and it left behind a harsh world.
That same thought that had plagued her as she attacked Pain was back as well.
'What are you doing?'
Hinata took a step forward. The Sandaime looked away from her, back towards Madara.
'What are you doing?'
A Lion's Fist sparked around her right hand, rolling blue chakra casting a ghostly light across the squirming parchment around her. Before she knew it, Hinata was running.
She had to get out. It was the only thing she could think about.
She had to get out.
"What-?" she heard the Third say, and then she was out of his reach, accelerating. The fifty meters between her and the Shodai closed in the blink of an eye. She saw the Sandaime take a faltering step after her. His face was easy to read, cast in confusion and hesitation. He didn't understand what she was doing.
When Hinata raised her right hand, fist flaring, she saw him realize his mistake.
Hashirama Senju was absolutely focused on Madara. He didn't shift at her approach. His eyes were closed, his teeth just slightly bared as he crushed his hands together. But while he didn't see her coming, Madara did. The Uchiha's eyes narrowed, like an ill-tempered cat's.
Less than a meter. Hinata threw her fist forward.
Hashirama tracked Madara's eyes, and realized they were not focused on him, but somewhere over his shoulder. The whole action was almost too fast for Hinata to follow. The First Hokage turned his head. Started to duck. The sealing had split his attention and the battle had drained his chakra.
Slow. Much, much slower than he should have been.
Hinata punched the First Hokage in the back of the head.
Hashirama's head snapped forward and he lay a hand on the ground, keeping himself from tumbling forward. The crushing chakra around Madara evaporated.
"Heh." A phantom of the Uchiha's Susano'o manifested, grabbing the torii pinning him and tossing it aside. The man struggled to his feet. "That's-"
Hinata rushed forward, past the stunned Shodai. She understood completely: she was alive. Why had she struck him?
"I'm not going to help you create your paradise!" she shouted, and the Uchiha cocked his head. She gestured around, her open hand encompassing the dying world. "But I could stop this!" Behind her, Hashirama raised his hand, palm facing towards her. Madara began to say something, but Hinata cut him off.
"Shinra Tensei!" She saw the Uchiha understood immediately… and that he was confused at how she could know that jutsu. He raised his hand, mirroring Hashirama.
Spiralling roots emerged from the Shodai's palm, reaching out towards Hinata. She allowed one foot to slip backwards, dropping down in a juuken stance.
"Hit me!" she shouted at Madara. For the first time ever, she saw him hesitate. A root brushed at her arm as she began to spin away from him, turning on one foot.
Madara did. Hinata watched the wave of unstoppable force engulf her and Hashirama from a sideways space, as though she were running past herself. She was definitely there, inbetween. Nevertheless, she felt her feet slide back: an enormous pressure crushed her body backwards against nothing. It felt as though her organs were going to burst through her spine. Her ribs compressed; her eyes were pushed back in their sockets.
'Too slow.' Hinata panicked, unable to move in the frozen inbetween space as she felt herself being blown away, while watching it happen in frozen motion just a few feet away. 'Too-!'
The world exploded into shining darkness, and Hinata vanished.
She was there again. That nowhere nothing burning cold place, so dark that it hurt her eyes. Falling through time that's where she was she was falling through time.
Hinata focused, unable to breathe. There was no air here. She wasn't here there either. Here, Hinata wasn't a person, she was just a string of feelings and consciousness catapulted across an unspace. She focused on herself. Hinata Hyuuga, not nothing, not part of this space. Unique. She existed. Her eyes existed: they were all that let her see, and to a degree comprehend, the lack that surrounded her.
With the thought, came the ribbons. All around her, hundreds and hundreds. They streamed past her life shoals of brilliant fish, scales sparkling in a world without color. It wasn't like the last time Hinata had been here. Then, she had drifted without purpose. She'd touched one of these curls of time out of curiousity, and it had eaten her alive. Now, she rocketed past them. Every single one remained out of reach.
She was being pushed towards something from nowhere. Her head hurt. Her entire body hurt, as though someone had shoved her into an oven that was slowly squeezing her down into a marble.
She could barely hear herself.
'Find your home.'
Hinata couldn't. How could she? She didn't even know how to look, let alone where. She was going to be trapped here, hurtling through blind space.
Then, up ahead, a flash of familiar lavender. It reared up above and around and behind her, a line that encompassed multiple spaces at once. She closed her eyes, the sight making her mind throb with colors that didn't exist, but of course closing her eyes was pointless with the Byakugan active. She watched the line inexorably approach, like the snapping mouth of some massive insect.
'I didn't find it,' she realized as it crushed her alive.
'It found me.'
After what seemed like hours, she hit something hard. Ridges: a sloped, tiled roof. The sudden physicality shocked her, along with the sudden contrast between warmth and cold on her skin.
Sunlight. Tiles. Temperature. She remembered all those things though she'd never forgotten them. Her limbs were lead. Her eyes were closed, unseeing. Hinata starting rolling.
But despite her efforts, Hinata couldn't stop her descent. She tumbled down the sloping roof, sliding over the edge without any warning. Before she knew it, she was falling. Somewhere, a bird trilled.
Hinata hit the ground with a grunt, and bounced, settling facedown on what felt like concrete. She tried to open her eyes, but they were just as heavy as her limbs.
A girlish scream silenced the distant bird and shattered whatever composure Hinata had left. She summoned up the last stubborn will inside her, and dragged open one eye. Through a dark veil cast by her hair falling across her face, she glimpsed a small, round face, watching her with terrified, pupilless eyes.
"Oh," she croaked, and the girl took an uncertain step away from her. Hinata started crying. The tears were unbelievably hot, leaking from her eyes and wiping away the ash and filth clinging to her face. But despite them, she couldn't help but smile, even if doing so felt ridiculous.
The little girl turned and ran. Her eye grinded closed; the world went dark. She heard pounding feet, drawing closer. Many sets. It was difficult to focus, so the exact number escaped her
'For now,' Hinata thought, paralyzed by relief, 'close enough.'
This chapter may be subject to minor edits in the future. I hope you enjoyed it.