Chapter 37: Fall or rise, the choice is yours
"When bad things happen, you can either fall with it or get up and keep walking."
—Ruby G. Williams
I miss you lots grandma, I tried my best with this life. I hope I made you proud
Disclaimer: Naruto is not mine; you want the real stuff get off this site
Paragraphs are flashbacks
The day was long, hot and filled with screams. The Jonin tried to protect the children, tried to keep them safe, tried to push back their enemies, tried to retreat. But nothing would deter the children from their given task. The graduates were devastating to their surroundings and the few cultists who dared to take them on. Their compromised teams flowed together well and worked to benefit each other's strengths. The three teams of the year eight were exhalent in their Intel gathering, they were even better at directing the battalion teams below them to various attack positions around the city. The single team from year seven were swift and accurate with the dismemberment of their opponents, tying the men up and easily removing their heads in as few moves as possible. Neji and Kaname worked well as they recorded everything they saw, Neji with his hand written notes and Kaname with her discreetly hidden cameras. No one really figured out she managed to convince Naruto to hide a recording seal with his chakra detection seals but she did and now they would have unlimited information on their enemy. She stood next to a slab of raised earth, five scrolls glowing before her like beacons of light. Blurring across their surface were words and numbers, accompanied by a few images as references. Each scroll was dedicated to a location of the city a half mile before them, the west side, the east side, the north side, the south side and of course the center of the city. The more information the scrolls retained, the larger they became and the more details that were stored on their surface. Aoi, Haruki Yamanaka and Sayuri remained on guard and in constant contact with Neji and Kaname; their rounds flitting with only a few minutes between each visit.
Year six, Sakura's friends and allies, created chaos wherever they landed in the city.
Without fail, Naruto's clones coated the city in great orange masses, their glowing finger tips placing detection seals on every surface and over lapping their ranges to keep all information accurate. Sasuke and Riko made quick work of the traps and were quite pleased with themselves for getting them to back lash on their original casters. Kakashi did his best to take out as many of the enemy as he could, he spared no one, dismissed nothing, left nothing to chance and beheaded everyone in his path.
Team Azuma remained on stand-by, directing Kakashi and Kurenai's team to various positions around the city. Ino and Sakura remained in contact through a headset, their conversation soft in the explosions of Naruto's clones, Sasuke's bombs and Riko's traps. It was Shikamaru who advised Naruto to repeat what they had done for the Hokage's 70th birthday, but this time they would be treating it with darker intentions. Naruto didn't like the thought of using his birthday gift as military strike against his enemies but he understood the necessity of it. Team Kurenai remained silent and still as they waited for directions from Shikamaru, taking out only a handful of men who challenged them. Hinata flitted from building to building like a butterfly, her water arcing around herself like lethal wings. Shino's insects delayed the reaction time of their enemies, making them sloppy and slow as their chakras slowly drained from their bodies. It made hunting down and destroying their enemy much easier and gave other students the time it took to dismember their opponents without much damage on their end. Kiba wanted to join in on the fighting but he knew and understood that he was out of his league in this fight. He wasn't an advanced student and didn't get even half of the training they did, if he tried to help them in a physical battle he'd end up hurt and their task could fail because of his pride. So he sucked up his pride and turned his attention to his primary task of finding Ami, he and Akamaru tried to distinguish her scent in the growing headache of the battle.
Hana and her rag-tag group worked surprisingly well as trackers as they hunted through the shadows for any traces of their target. Lee was miffed that he was tasked to go on a searching mission but he understood quickly when they came across an enemy. Sai was not capable of battle, he could only manipulate his ink to do so much and with his complete concentration on searching for Ami, he had been unaware of the approaching danger. Makani barely managed to alert them in time and Hana nearly missed the change in the air current, her eyes widening as the scent of blood and smoke filled her nose. Lee had simply turned at the right time to see a shift too close to Sai and had moved automatically to protect the distracted boy.
Tenzo remained at Sakura's side, unable to help anyone as his transferred bloodline ceased existing for the first time since the cells had been grafted to his DNA. Guren, Haku and Kimimaru moved around the boundaries of the city with crystalline clones of Sakura at their sides. With the number of forces against them, it took the strange team of bloodlines until nightfall to reach their desired locations.
But by then, it was too late.
Deep underground, in a hidden stone room beneath the city, in the same room that Ruia kept Ami chained to a wall, two sisters fought. One was aglow in blinding yellow sparks of lightning, the other danced with the blood stained water of the room like a demonic witch of water. They fought gracefully and dreadfully, sparing nothing to land a hit on the other but it was clear that the twins were identical in more ways than just appearance. Their battle tactics and skills were evenly matched, neither was able to best the other in combat; eventually the two twins met again in another dead-lock.
"Kameyama-san! Take her and go!" Ren cried, her hands full of her sister's staff, barely managing to keep her twin back. Ami remained weak and defenseless in the corner of the room, her brown eyes wide in terror and fear.
"Stay away from Hime!" Ruia cried out, her arms trembling against the strength of her sister
"Ami isn't your princess!" Ren cried out, "She's not Jashin's daughter!"
"Then why have you been so close to her?!" Ruia snarled, her silver glowing eyes thinning into slits. "Nothing is more precious than Jashin-sama's children!"
"Stay back!" Ren ordered as she kicked at her sister, sending her twin into the stone wall behind her. "Ami retreat! Kameyama will get you home!"
"Aunty!" Ami cried out, her voice shrill as their surroundings shook and explosions defend their senses.
"Those pesks," Ruia coughed and snarled, her glowing eyes thinning as the darkness of the room enveloped her, retreating her from her battle. "I'll deal with you later!" the door to the room slammed shut, keeping the group locked in the stone room far below the surface. "I have to go kill those annoying little rats you brought!"
"Damn it!" Kameyama snarled, his hands tightening on Ami. "If Ruia gets to the children then they'll be massacred!"
"Take Ami and go," Ren ordered, observing the stone room carefully.
"Aunty no!" Ami whimpered, her voice cracking as another explosion shook the room.
"Go!" A section of the wall shattered apart, smoking from the force of Ren's blinding bolt of electricity. "Do not argue with me young lady. Your friends are here to take you home, follow their voices and you can get back to the village safely."
"But," Ami whimpered as the room shook again. "What… what about you?" her aunt remained silent a moment, the sparks of her lightning slipping off her body like water to silk. Her head bowed and the torches from the hall shinned on her with a haunting visage of mournful ghost. "Aunty?" Ami whispered, "What… what are you planning?"
"I…" Ren hesitated, "I… I cannot… ask for forgiveness." With those words Ren stepped onto the seal carved into the stone room, ignoring how Kameyama hurriedly grabbed Ami and restrained her. "With my blood as sacrifice, I beg of thy, goddess of the moon hear my plea." The seal's ominous glow of crimson shifted to blinding white-violet, making Ren look like a falling angle of moonlight. "Dearest goddess of the moon, mother of life and bringer of hope. I beg of you, bind my life to my twin Ruia and take us both to the realm of the past." Ren's silver eyes glowing a blinding white, her long navy hair lifted to surround her in a current of blistering hot winds. Kameyama pulled Ami into his chest, turning his back on Ren and grinding his teeth as the winds slashed at him mercilessly.
"Kaguya, goddess of life, I beg of you," Ren coughed, splattering her blood across her face blouse. "End my sister's life, with my own as payment." On the surface of the earth, Ruia screamed as the moonlight enveloped her with a light like sunbeams. In a moment blinding and deafening, the psychotic twin shattered apart in ashes and embers, her wailing scaring those left in her wake.
"Aunty!" Ami cried out, "Don't leave me!" She clung to Kameyama, tears streaming down her face as Ren smiled peacefully in the glowing seal of the room.
"Good bye…," Ren's eyes closed, a final blast of heat erupted from the seal, stealing her soul and taking it to the surface of the earth before flinging it at the moon to which her goddess resided. My family…
"Welcome home, my child," she was wrapped in warmth, her eyes closed and she knew without a doubt that the war was finally over.
"Sakura!" Shikamaru cried into his mike, at his side was Ino, leaning heavily against him with a bleeding arm and spinning vision. "What's going on?! What are those things?!" surrounding the city were great towering crystals, looking like pillars reaching for the sky; before him stood Azuma, looking tiered and exhausted as he stood stubbornly against a man with white hair and violet eyes. The strange man wielded a scythe and he seemed stubborn enough to use it against them but now his attention was diverted, his glittering eyes observing the velvet sky with thoughtful curiosity.
"Hiden!" a shadow from another building over snapped out angrily, "We have to go! Your kid is fighting someone!"
"Damn it Kakusou! Why didn't you tell me sooner?!" the strange man, Hiden, snarled disdainfully. "The bloody moon has already risen! If she's not in the seal then the prophecy won't come true!" With that the two strange men disappeared into the dark, leaving behind Azuma and his wounded teammates. Shikamaru panted heavily, his body aching from the surprise explosion that shook the city and collapsed half of the buildings, some sinking into the earth as if great cavers opened up to devour it all.
"We have to go," Azuma wheezed, out of our league and then some. These men are dangerous. "Shikamaru! Tell Sakura we need to retreat!" In answer to his demand crystalline dust floated around them, drifting on the wind currents as the giant crystals glowing hauntingly in the crimson light of the moon. Behind him, Shikamaru tightened his hold on his unconscious friend, one hand still pressed against the mike on his throat, his voice cracking in panic as he repeatedly called out for Sakura.
This can't be happening, Azuma panted, his dark eyes snapping from side to side, searching for something that was to their benefit. This can't be happening. This can't be happening. This can't be happening. The sentence repeated itself in his mind like a mantra, a plea to the gods that went unheard.
"Please kami-sama, don't let it end like this."
"Hinata!" Kurenai screamed, shaking the unconscious girl as glowing dust slowly surrounded them. Her bright eyes lifted, searching out Shino and Kiba, both where heavily wounded and unconscious, surrounding her in bloody pools and silence. High overhead the midnight sky glittered with ominous crimson stars, the bloody light of the moon shined down on them like a promise from the grim reaper.
"No," Kurenai whimpered, her bright red eyes widening as tears slowly slipped down her pale face. "Please kami-sama… no…" I don't want to die like this…
Hana coughed wetly, she was leaned against a broken wall, one pup in her lap and the other two bleeding at her feet. Sai and Makani were both unconscious, one buried in the broken building she leaned against. Lee stood alone before her, panting heavily, bleeding profusely, his legs shaking and his vision doubling as exhaustion crushed his body like relentless ocean waves. Their opponent was distracted with the glowing dust, watching it spin and twirl on the wind towards the center of the ruined city. Slowly the man turned his haunting crimson gaze back towards them, still and calm like a mirror surface.
"It would seem you are too late," he murmured slowly. "The demon has awoken."
"Itachi!" Hana coughed, tears pricking her eyes as sorrow ripped her heart apart. "Please, I'm begging you. Come back to us, please! Just this once, my friend, fight with us!"
"…I cannot." Itachi's eyes glowed, Lee feinted and Hana's world slipped into darkness. She cried silently as Itachi left her with her wolves, letting her sleep with memories of a team they never formed and the friendship that was snuffed before it could bloom.
Emi Ikeda was the Jonin in charge of Chohime Nara, Aoi and Tenten; they were tasked with keeping the cultists away from the information gathering center that was Neji Hyuga and Kaname. As the blood red light of the moon shinned down on them, draining them of their remaining power, she knew that their mission failed. Behind her Chohime cried as she held a bloody Aoi close, her world darkening as their last opponent cackled in delight. Collapsing to her knees, Emi lifted her right arm, her fingers spread out wide towards their opponent. Chohime was out of strength, Aoi was bleeding to death and Tenten was either dead or unconscious—Emi failed in her given task of protecting the children entrusted to her.
Please, just this once, her sight was doubling, her vision darkening, her world chilling with death's touch. Please… work… just… just this… once… She collapsed, her fingers held tightly in a fist. The man cursed as flashes of glinting crimson danced across hundreds of wires, surrounding him faster than he could blink and quickly releasing him of his head.
Kaname cried in the restraining hold of Neji's embrace, she screamed, wailed, hit him, blamed him, cursed him; but it would do nothing to bring back her friend. Their enemy figured out that it was the crystals that was protecting them, that it was the Aburame's insects slowing them—it was only a matter of time for their process of elimination to succeed through all their ranks. With their distance from the crumbling city, Kaname and Neji had the horrifying view of watching their teammates fall to the deranged laughing of their enemies. Admittedly though, they never noticed how the cultists they were going against were suddenly replaced with the black robed men who appeared and disappeared as quickly as a flash.
Hinata-sama, Neji's teeth creaked under the pressure he put them, his arms tightening to bruise the flesh of Kaname's body. I… I should've argued more… He never should've relented to Hinata, he never should've caved to her wishes, he never should've granted her wish.
His sister was dead because he couldn't tell her no
Kimimaru panted heavily, his bone shield was crached and damaged, revealing the layers between him and the outer surface. Behind him was the wounded team of Yoko Mizushima, her chargers were Akane Nohara and Shinobu of year eight. Yoko received a nasty wound from their current opponent, a man seven feet tall, blue like the ocean and with big bug eyes. He laughed lowly as he swung his strange sword around himself, beating back Yuko like she was a fly and nearly killing Akane with a punch. It took everything Kimimaru had to protect her from most of the damage but his shield took a heavy price and now he was having trouble keeping it up.
"You're a strong bug!" the blue-man laughed, swinging his sword around to hold it at the ready, its bandaged surface shivering in excitement. "I wonder if you look like one under neither all that bone!" Kimimaru cursed as suddenly the man was inches away, his sword crashing down into his side and shredding through the layers like a cheese-grater. He forced off his shell, sending it out at the man like an explosion of shrapnel. His effort was met with cursing, blood and one really pissed nuke-nin.
"You know Mr. Bug, I was going to play with you," the man swung his sword, dissipating the smoke and shattering the bone fragments. "But I think I'll just kill you now." Kimimaru hated how the cool night hair brushed against his bare skin, caressing his muscles and reminding him brutally of just how exposed he was to this monster in human form.
"Heh," behind him Yuko coughed wetly, a smirk playing on her lips. "And here… I… I thought you… were an old-old man. Hehehe," she chuckled weakly, her laughter sounding wet and forced. Kimimaru glanced back at her, her ribs were exposed and her entire side was skinned cleanly; hell, her muscles were nearly shredding off her bones like liquid mush. "You…" Yuko coughed again, "you… you're just a kid…" The last thing she saw was Kimimaru disappearing as the man swiped at him again, only to have the boy appear behind him, his body erupted in thousands of bone spikes and pierce through the larger body of his opponent.
"Akane retreat!" Kimimaru spun away from the man, his bones taking most of the hit as he was forced to flip through the air and skid across the ground. "Take Yuko and Shinobu! Get out of here!"
"What about your?!" Akane asked loudly, her arms bloody from the unconscious form of her teammate Shinobu
"Just go!" Kimimaru ordered, he retreated and readied himself, his bone swords held at the ready and his spikes quivering in the cold breeze. "Compared to Sakura-chan, he's nothing."
"Nothing uh?" the man swiveled on his feet, his sword acting like a counter weight as he swung at Kimimaru again, his smile wide as the boy's eyes widened and he was sent crashing across the field and into a building. "I am Kismae Hoshigaki, one of the legendary swordsmen of the hidden mist." The man straightened and swung his sword onto his shoulder, grinning at the falling apart building that not contained an unconscious boy. "I am an S-class nuke-nin, dubbed as the zero-tailed demon of the hidden mist." He bowed mockingly, his fish-like eyes glinting in mischief, "pleased to meet your acutance, Kaguya-bastard." Kimimaru coughed and pushed himself up, panting heavily he stared at his opponent, but all wounds he sustained in the fight were gone, the last of which disappearing as the glow from the sword slowly fiddled away into nothing.
"Your sword," Kimimaru coughed, "it… it heals you."
"o~oh so the little bastard can see!" Kisame mocked, he pointed his sword at the boy. "You'll die like your mother boy, by the blade of my sword!" There weren't many memories Kimimaru had of his parents, especially ones containing his father but there were a few he had of his mother. She was soft spoken and kind, with umber hair and dancing chocolate eyes. She loved his father and was always scolding him when he came back with a wound or bloodstains. She thought Kimimaru many things, how to talk and walk, how to read and write. She even taught him how to summon his bones in a manner that didn't hurt him nor cause him to bleed. It was through her teachings that he was able to awaken his bloodline without pain or misery; she did so much for him, she tried so hard for him.
But then, one day, she just… didn't come home
"Time to join her!" Kisame laughed as he lunged for Kimimaru, "I told your mother you'd be too weak for this life! And I was right!"
The sword came down, Kimimaru's eyes opened, blood splattered and Akane screamed
Guren panted heavily from her place in the field, she stood alone between her enemy and the crystal she was sent to protect. Her opponent was a puppeteer and had easily isolated her from the group sent to protect the crystal with her. Now she was surrounded in hundreds of puppet parts, their purple poison stained the ground with glistening streaks of midnight violet and stained her nose with dizzying toxins.
"What's the matter girl?" The puppeteer's voice mocked her from the darkness, hidden out of sight. "Feeling sleepy? Dizzy? Perhaps you should rest. Don't worry about your friends. I'll make sure it ends quickly for them."
She worked for the past two days on how to introduce herself and get them to like her, she couldn't wait to have friends. Her first friends in the entirety of her life, she couldn't wait to see their reactions! The crystal shattered and she was met with sleepy green eyes, she knew this person was going to be her best friend.
"I'm Guren Kobayashi! Resident genius of the Kobayashi clan!" she couldn't wait to have friends, then she wouldn't be a lone anymore.
"I am a bastard child of the clan head," Guren murmured, smiling bitterly to herself. "I never really did belong here... So now I'm going to travel with them. I'm going to the village hidden in the leafs. I'm going to fight in this war and I'm going to survive."
Her opponent laughed, her vision darkened and for a moment she thought she was going to feint but she didn't. Her eyes closed, the power in her veins awoke, the silent night was shattered as crystalline bells sang for the first time.
She made a vow, she will not let it be broken now
"Guren-san! Behind you!" The cry came too late
Kakashi stood before his wounded students, Sasuke and Naruto remained braced by the other, their eyes a matching crimson of demonic promise. Before them was the barren battle field of stone slabs, dismembered bodies, broken weapons and the swirling crystalline dust converging on the two figures now battling alone in the center of the city. The two girls weaved like wisps, their weapons clashing with sparks and curses, their tears staining their faces and their cries unheard by the other. Kakashi turned his mismatched eyes overhead, staring in fear at the crimson moon that slowly brightened as the time passed and the last of its white glow slipped into the red embrace of a demon's awakening.
"Sakura!" Kakashi cried out, his voice cracking in terror as he moved towards his student
"Not so fast old man!" Kakashi stumbled to a stop, his path blocked by a man with white hair and violet eyes. Beside him was the blackened form of tentacles and glowing emerald eyes. "She's my daughter not yours!" the man with white hair cackled as he looked over his shoulder, his smile widening with a deranged gleam glittering through his amethyst eyes. "It's almost ready. Kakusou, hold them back."
"Just finish this Hiden," Kakusou ordered, his tentacles surrounding him like a protective shield. Hiden cackled as he dived away, his scythe flying through the air as he released it carelessly as he sprinted towards the fighting girls. Kakashi remained turn, protect the boys or protect Sakura, either way his students were going to die.
"You came too late to the show Hatake," Kakusou drawled, his tentacles whipping out at the Jonin.
"So what else is new?" Kakashi asked gruffly, his right hand flaring white-hot with electricity. With blind fury and determination, Kakashi blocked every tactical sent his way and even managed to break one of Kakusou's hearts. But with every success, came a failure.
"Kakashi-sensei!" Naruto screamed shrilly, his crimson gaze alighting on the fight not ending in their favor.
"Listen to me for once!" Sakura screamed, leaning back from a swipe of the hysterical girl in front of her. Quickly she snapped forward, reached for the weapon with one hand and formed a fist with the other. Her left hand brushed the surface of the scythe and a echoing explosion sent Sakura careening away from Ami. She flipped and skidded across the slaps of stone, their surroundings demolished with their instinctual reaction to rely on their elemental-chakras. Out of juice the two of them were resorting to hand-to-hand combat, relying heavily on their chosen weapons. Ami, with her broken heart and shattered mind, could only wail unintelligently as she swung her aunt's scythe around wildly and without training. Sakura managed to keep two glistening crystalline katana in form and in her hands, though soon her exhaustion would catch up and they would no longer stand at her side. Sakura shakily stood on her feet, leaping back from Ami's swipe and continued dodging as the other girl continued to chase her. Soon enough the white light of the moon was gone and with it the only surface too they could stand remained as the circular slab of stone in the center of their battle grounds.
"Calm down!" Sakura screamed as ducked back from a swipe, her movements slowing as the weapon removed several hairs. "AMI! I'm your alley!"
"Traitor!" Ami wailed, swinging again. "It's your fault!"
"I'm here to save you!"
"You took her! You killed her!"
"I'm here to protect you!"
"It's your fault! You lead her here!"
"I followed the crystal!" Sakura panted as she leaped out of range. "Remember my promise?! That crystal is a symbol of your trust for me and for my—" Sakura cursed as Ami lunged at her again. She could sense it, the crystal still hanging from Ami's neck, cold and clear like the midnight wind pushing against her. "Ami! Wake up! I am not your enemy!"
"You lead her here!" Ami wailed, lunging forward again, "you brought her here! You told her where to find me! You told her everything!" Sakura didn't know who Ami was referring to at first but as Ami's heartache grew and her insanity manifested as hysterical wailing; she slowly pulled the pieces together. The weapon Ami was using was one Sakura had seen in a photo of her aunt and there was no one more precious to Ami then her last surviving relative.
"Damn it all," Sakura cursed and leaped away again, skittering across the surface of the platform and scuffing her palms along its surface. If her aunt was still living, then Sakura could've kept Ami sane enough to return home but without the older Nanami, there was no hope of getting through to Ami.
"Sakura! Run!" there was a dark blur rushing Ami, she could only assume that it was an alley. Turning towards the trusted voice of her guard, Sakura's eyes rose to the glowing disk in the sky.
In an instant she was captivated by the haunting crimson glow of the full moon.
"Good evening my child," a deep mescaline voice murmured in her ear, "it's been some time, hasn't it?"
The group lead by Midori Uchiha arrived too late, the remained standing on the edge of the center of the city, their eyes wide and faces pale; forced to watch as everything they knew unraveled. They had thought that it was Ami who was to be the host of the demon, that it was Ami who would shatter upon touch with the Crimson moonlight. But they were wrong. They watched as the white haired man, bathed in the crimson light of the moon, lifted Ami by her neck and threw her out of the glow with a curse. Ami crashed and skidded across the surface, her scythe slipping from her numb fingers as her world threatened to blacken. The man turned towards Sakura, observing her calmly as the wind picked up around her, rising her hair and keeping everyone at a distance. Snarling the strange man slipped down to one knee and forming a long string of hand signs, quickly slapped his palms into the surface of the stone at his feet. A seal bloomed like spider webs around Sakura, making her scream as the seal wrapped around her in inky black lines and chaining her in place to the stone at her feet. Above her the image of an embracing couple shimmered into existence, making the strange man snarl disdainfully at the shimmering spirits.
"Just die already whore!" The man screamed at the spirit but his fury went unheard. The black lines of goo rose from Sakura's body and lazily swiped at the spirits above her, the woman whimpered as the man pushed her away, receiving the entire curse upon his soul. In that instant, Karen understood what was happening. Naomi and Midori had filled her in on the most of the details of the mission, but it was at this moment that she truly understood what they feared.
"What… what's going on?" Naomi's voice shook, her panic and fear rising as she stepped back cautiously.
"Two hosts," Karen answered, watching the spirit scream shrilly as the blood red light of the moon intensified on him. "The demon needs a spiritual host to gain access to this world… and a physical host to remain here." Her eyes slipped down to Sakura, realization filling her as her knees gave out and she crashed against the rubble strewn earth. The female spirit seemed to have sensed them, the woman twisted in the light of the moon, her wide green eyes locking in on Karen instantly. The woman smiled brokenly at her, her special chakra flared out and connected with Karen, relaying memories and emotions that brought the girl crying for the misfortune that befell her clansman. Sakura hadn't been born on these lands, nor was she conceived on these lands. So by those standards the ritual should have failed. But Sakura's father's was conceived on these lands, he was born on these lands and his first years were on these lands.
Had Takao Izumizu not sealed a part of his soul into Sakura at birth, then the ritual would have failed.
"He… he loved you that much?" Karen murmured, her tears still freely falling as she stared at the woman hovering in the crimson light of the moon. The woman smiled regretfully, her shoulders slumping as her eyes drifted back to her lover and child. Rukia Uzumaki, the true heiress of the Uzumaki clan had sealed a fraction of her power into her child to protect her from the monsters that would torment her. Takao sealed a part of his power into their child so that he could later find her after the battle but ended up dying instead. The price of sealing their powers into their child gave them power to remain as spirits in the world of the living; bound by their souls to their daughter. They were there when she was saved from the waterfall kunochi, they were there when she took her first steps, and they were there for her first words. Every first Sakura had until that moment, they were there. They were watching and listening, silently encouraging and comforting, smiling and crying at her side respectfully. They were there for every fight, for every battle, for every word spoken, for every tear that fell, for every whispered prayer, for every smile, for every laugh—they had never left her side even for a moment.
And now, it was their love for their child that put the curliest of curses upon her.
"What do we do?" Yua whispered, her bright crimson eyes scanning their surroundings for something that could help them; only rubble greeted her sight. "At this rate the demon will awaken! We have to do something!"
"Naomi, Taiki go after Sakura! Pull her out of the seal when I tell you too!" Midori ordered, she grabbed up two kunai and readied them before herself. "Yua! Take Karen-san and retreat to safer ground!" She burst forward without further instruction, leaving the children to do as they were told. The strange man supplying the seal cursed as Midori threw electrified kunai at him, indenting the stone and setting his surroundings a flame with a great fireball. Naomi and Taiki charged the seal, expecting to go through the moonlight but were met with a sold wall that flung them back with an echoing scream of fury.
The last thing Naomi saw, was the black stripes consuming Sakura and the spirit of her father, ignoring their cries of agony as it pulsed with the power of an awakening demon.
Ami coughed and wheezed, her world brightening with crimson light and agony filled screams. She struggled to push herself up, everything was shaking, moving violently around her, threatening to send her careening back into the darkness she barely managed to escape. The source of the crimson light was the blood stained moon and the source of the screaming was Sakura, standing alone in the bloody light of the moon. To her right were two battling forms, a man with white hair and furious amethyst eyes and a woman with eyes like the moon, both battling for everything they were worth. To her left were two corpses of older students she didn't recognize, she could see their headbands, she recognized the familiar crest of her village but that was it. Pushing herself up, Ami gratefully clasped the staff of her living weapon, a smirk twisting her face as its power surged through her, healing her wounds and giving her strength. She could feel the encouraging hand of her aunt press against her back, reminding her of her opponent and the weakened state she was in. The scythe hummed beneath her palm like a purring cat. It pulled power from the air and earth around them, refueling her with the strength she would need to kill the wailing pinkette before her.
"Defeating one's yang is difficult at best," Ren frowned at her thoughtfully, "even I haven't accomplished that."
"Why not?" Ami asked. "You're so strong… how come you haven't killed off your yang?"
"Because my yang is my sister," Ren smiled at her. "I love my sister, despite the darkness she wallows in, I still love her."
"I am not like aunty," Ami murmured to her scythe, a tiered smile tugged at her lips. "My Yang is not my kin. Therefore," Ami reset her eyes upon her opponent, watching how she gripped at her head and screamed loud enough to spit up blood. "I will… kill her!" Ami burst forward, her scythe spinning through the air as she aimed to kill her wailing classmate. She entered the crimson light of the moon, her dark eyes diluting as Sakura's tear stained face lifted to look at her. Something in her mind said 'don't… don't do it, don't kill her' but Ami pushed the thought aside. Like a desperate attempt from the demon willing black stripes of goo, the things wrapped around Sakura lurched towards Ami but they evaporated upon contact with her weapon. She could feel the power the scythe gained from the gooey black stripes, her smirk widened into a grin, her eyes widening as she charged again, aiming to remove Sakura's head once and for all.
"Thank you," Sakura smiled peacefully at her, closing her eyes in acceptance and bowing her head. Ami's feet skidded across the stone, her weapon absorbing the power of the black goo threatening her. Snarling at the content girl, Ami swung her weapon around but it wasn't Sakura who was damaged. In a last dying effort to protect his child, the remaining spirit of Takao took his child's place. Ami's weapons sliced through the black stripes containing the spirit, freeing him in an instant. However, her weapon absorbed more than just the power of the black goo; it took the remaining power in the seal that connected Takao and his daughter, freeing him entirely from his child.
"Thank you," the man whispered, his soul glowing a bright white before shattering into white speckled dust. Ami stepped back from Sakura, her eyes wide in alarm as she searched the crimson light for the spirit of man still bound but her eyes only landed on the pretty red head floating nearby. The woman smiled at Ami and floated back towards Sakura, a gentle touch of her ghostly hand banished the stripes of black goo from Sakura, freeing her to slum against the glowing seal. Ami stepped back again, flipping her weapon around to hold it at the ready but the woman only chuckled at her, as if she was amusing. It was then that Ami understood who that woman was.
She was Sakura's mother and the man was Sakura's father.
Sakura's parents died and sealed a part of their powers into her to protect her.
Trembling, Ami backed away from Sakura, her memories surfacing to mock her and remind her of Sakura's talents. The times Sakura magically freed herself from Ami when they were still children, the times they were pushed beyond their limits and Sakura still raced ahead of them unhindered. When the teachers praised Sakura for knowing something they haven't yet taught her. When Sakura instinctively knew how to block or parry a blow that would be difficult even for their teachers. When Sakura knew the quickest route to her destination with the least amount of trouble to obstruct her. When Ami caught Sakura training with an element, she knew that it was a rare element, that she shouldn't even have it. When the teachers started calling Sakura a genius, the next prodigy of Konoha, the pride of the academy, the future of the hidden leaf. Ami knew something wasn't right then and she was right. This whole time Sakura had the aid of the dead on her side. Her parents were there to whisper answers to tests, to scout out ahead, to whisper in her ear during spars, to teach her about advanced arts.
Sakura had the ability to depend on her parents
All at once, Ami's level of fury and jealously mingled and amplified tenfold. Ami killed her mother at birth, why didn't her mother seal her spirit into her? Her sister died trying to keep her warm, why hadn't she sealed a part of her with Ami? Didn't they know how much she loved them? Didn't they know how much she missed them? Didn't they know how much she wished they were still with her? There were so many times she could've used their help! If only they had sealed themselves into her then she could've beaten Sakura so much sooner!
"It's your fault," Ami snarled furiously, glaring at Sakura as the pinkette pushed herself up with trembling arms. Ami thumped her scythe into the ground, unaware of the ribbon of darkness it crushed, with her other hand she pointed at the frowning spirit hovering over Sakura worriedly. "It's not fair! You've had help all these years! It's not fair that you could rely on the dead!" Sakura coughed and looked where Ami was pointing but she saw nothing but open air, the woman smiled brokenly down at Sakura, knowing she couldn't be seen. "It's not fair!" Ami's hands tightened on the scythe, its power growing with the more darkness it absorbed and so too did Ami's jealousy and anger grow with the more power her weapon shared. "It's not fair! I should've had all the help from mom and sis! Not you! You got parents! You got friends! You got siblings! IT'S NOT FAIR!"
"Life isn't fair!" Sakura snapped back at her, her voice horse and dry from the screaming she did previously. Ami snarled furiously at her, her scythe rising over her head. Coughing wetly, Sakura pressed a glowing palm to her throat healing the damage done to it. "Life isn't fair Ami," Sakura tried again, her vocal cords slowly warming with the gentle coaxing she gave it. "When bad things happen," Sakura struggled to her feet, wobbling drunkenly on her aching feet, "You can either fall with it or…" Sakura's hand slipped down from her throat, falling limp at her side. "Or you can get up and keep walking." It was quiet a moment, the crimson light of the moon dimming briefly with the blinding smile of the woman floating beside Sakura. Then the world nearly blackened as Ami screamed, the darkness that summoned forth the demon wrapped itself around Ami and her weapon, smothering her in despair and hatred.
"Ami!" Sakura shouted, reaching out to her classmate was pushed back by the black wisps slashing out at her. Wincing from the burn now spreading across her palm, Sakura stepped back from Ami, watching in horror as the darkness surrounded her in great clouds and solid ribbons. A snicker turned into chuckling, that turned into giggling that suddenly and rapidly turned into deranged laughter.
"Ami?" Sakura called hesitantly. The other girl lifted her face, her smile was wide and deranged, the black wisps that surrounded her feet crawled up her body to float about her wild midnight locks and fill her chocolate eyes. The added power brought tears to Ami's eyes and, alarmingly, pushed out the contacts hiding her childhood violet eyes.
"What power," Ami chuckled, staring down at her hands, her violet eyes glinting with a power not her own. "How could you not want something from the gods?" Ami's eyes slid up to Sakura, her deranged grin spreading painfully across her pale face. "Forget it! Your lose!" Ami burst forward, her scythe spinning in her hand as she went to slice through Sakura again. Cursing Sakura dodged, she leaped and jumped away from Ami until she was on the edge of the crimson light of the moon. "Why're you running little flower?" Ami asked her voice shrill and high. "I'm only gonna put you in the ground!" Sakura ground her teeth while Ami laughed at her own joke, spreading her arms out to either side, her crystal towers shuttered and shook. Before her plan could be brought to action, Ami was lunging at her, scythe held high and ready and as quickly as Ami lunged at her, so too did another form lung at Ami.
"Die!" Ami screamed, only to be knocked aside as a brilliant white form crashed into her. Sakura coughed as two other forms skidded across the rock surface around her. To her left crouched Naruto, eyes brilliant crimson and shrouded in an orange cloak of dark chakra. To her right was Sasuke, left arm hanging uselessly at his side while his rise rose to reach out to Sakura.
"Are you alright?" Sasuke asked worriedly, Naruto snarled furiously and took off towards Ami, ignoring Sakura's distressed call behind him. "its okay, don't panic," Sasuke said as he shuffled closer to her, his hand reaching out to turn her face towards him. "Are you sure you're okay? The demon didn't consume you or anything?"
"he gave it his best shot but Ami freed dad and without him the demon couldn't find perches," Sakura replied frowning at him. "Did… did Shikamaru tell you?"
"Yeah," Sasuke nodded with a sigh. "He and a few others are retreating with the wounded and unconscious. They're waiting for us to meet up with them on the edge of the city." An explosion erupted and they both flinched as a section of stone wall collapsed to the ground, only to have a glittering white blur screaming like a thousand birds burst out of the dark cloud and shoot straight for Ami. "We need to go," Sasuke grunted, moving to pull Sakura's arm over his shoulders. "They can't keep her distracted forever. Come o—" Sasuke's breath caught as Sakura twisted around him and pressed her lips to his own, an innocent kiss that tasted like tears and regret. He remained frozen and surprised even as Sakura ended the kiss, her forehead pressed against his as tears leaked down her face.
"I love you," Sakura whispered, "I always will." He couldn't respond before his world was black and Sakura sent him careening away from the battle ground through the aid of a crystalline hawk. Without further thought, Sakura summoned her crystals to knock out Naruto and restrain Kakashi. Ignoring her teacher's shouts and curses, Sakura sent them together to the edge, several other small crystalline orbs soon following them as she was left behind in the crimson moonlight.
"Just die already!" Sakura stepped out of the way of the angry swipe, Ami snarled as she tried to swing at her again but Sakura simply dodge again. Repeatedly moving in circles, Ami tried to kill Sakura with her scythe and Sakura would continuously step aside. "Hold still damn it!" Ami screamed furiously, in that moment of fury induced blindness, Sakura stepped in close and removed the scythe from Ami's hold. Ami gasped as her weapon was sent careening through the air and out of the crimson moonlight. "BITCH!" Ami roared, spinning on the ball of her foot, her fist swinging wildly at Sakura's face but the pinkette dodged again. Sakura smiled bitterly to herself, a whispered payer went unheard, the crystal towers shattered into glittering dust, surrounding the ruined city in a beautiful pink doom. The branch sitting on Sakura's wrist burst to life, wrapping around Ami and Sakura in a knotted tree of branches and roots; binding them back to back.
"NOOO!" Ami screamed shrilly, her head jerking back as Sakura's crown expanded to wrap its reaching branches into her midnight locks. Sakura took in a deep breath of the cool air and smiled peacefully as the last essence of her power bloomed around Ami and herself, caging them together in a crystalline tree intermixed with the snarled branches and roots of her bracelet and crown.
Her year was up, the curse of the trees was set free
The day was long, warm and full of bird song. It was as if a demon hadn't awoken to destroy them during the night. With a burst of memory and adrenalin, Sasuke sat up in his bed with a shout of his teammate's name. His wide crimson eyes searched his surroundings but he only found himself to be in a white room surrounded by several beds containing the unconscious bodies of his classmates. To his left was Naruto, remaining unconscious and still in his bed. To his right was Kiba as still as any corpse, even with his whimpering partner curled up on his chest. Before him was Midori, Yua and Ameko, all three with breathing ventilators, heart monitors and IV's hanging on their arms; they were even wrapped up like mummies, denoting their extensive injuries. Panting heavily, Sasuke's eyes swept over the room again but they only landed on the doors to his left, which slowly opened to reveal his teacher and a few other Jonin he remembered from the battle in the Spring forest.
"You're awake," Kakashi murmured. His right arm was casted and held in a sling, a crouch on his other side helped him to walk down the rows to the chair at sitting between Naruto and Sasuke. The red eyed woman hurried to Kiba's bed side, where Sasuke could see a comatose Hinata laying on his other side with Shino on the other side of her. The bearded Jonin hurried to the chair sitting between Naruto, which revealed an unconscious Ino. The man shook a dark shoulder and the sleepy head that lifted showed him Shikamaru, still half asleep despite the dark lines beneath his eyes. Sasuke straightened in his chair, his red eyes widening as he saw that the left side of Shikamaru's face was bandaged, telling him that the boy might've lost an eye in the fight.
"Don't panic, everyone is still alive," Kakashi coughed as he took his seat. "Though it was only thanks to Sakura that any of us even returned here alive."
"Where is she?" Sasuke asked, only to have his voice fail and throw him into a coughing fit. His throat was dry and scratchy, a silent reminder that he was unconscious long enough for his voice-box to go out due to lack of use. How long was he unconscious? How many days passed before he awoke? What happened to his teammate? How'd they all get back to the village?
"It's been two months since the seal was erected," the red eyed jonin murmured, her hands tightening on Hinata's. "We were beginning to worry that none of you would live."
"The seal remains strong and shows no signs of failing," the Jonin beside Shikamaru grumbled. He rolled his shoulder and gestured to Shikamaru, a silent command to leave the room before either of them fell asleep a second time. "Kakashi, you tell him the rest." Kakashi nodded as his collogue and student both left the room slowly, shoulders slumped and heads bowed submissively.
"Sakura performed a forbidden sealing jutsu," Kakashi started slowly. "It's called the 'Crest of Eternal Sleep'." Kakashi glanced at Sasuke for a moment before returning is attention back to the ground. "It was originally designed as a suicide seal meant to seal away the tree of power. It was supposed to have been lost centuries ago when a fire destroyed the Eternal Spring's Library and archives. But somehow, Sakura discovered the seal and used it to seal away the demon before it could take complete possession of Ami."
"I," Sasuke's voice wheezed painfully in his throat. Coughing he reached out to the bedside lamp and grabbed the cup waiting for him there, swallowing the cool water, Sasuke tried not to flinch at the pain that scorched his throat with each gulp. "I don't understand… Shikamaru found records of that seal in a few books Sakura sent him. but they weren't detailed in how to use it or create it, just passing comments about its existence."
"The Crest of Eternal Sleep is operated by the royal family of demons," Kakashi tried to explain, "it can only be wielded by the heiress and it can only work in conjunction with a large resource of the earth's natural chakra. When it's put into use, the surrounding rivers of natural chakra get syphoned off to feed the seal. The heiress can't contain all that power so she becomes a living sacrifice for the seal to work." Kakashi glanced again at Sasuke, as if to make sure he was still paying close attention to him. "Sakura… she made what's called a seal brace, she made several of them, actually, and their purpose is to contain the earth's natural chakra energy and transmit it to the head crystal or the creator of the crystal. Somewhere on her journey, Sakura made several clones that diverted from her original path and traveled to Suna, Iwa and the southern unclaimed territories sitting between Suna and Konoha. These clones created crystal braces in each of the countries, but only those who had a large pool of Natural chakra. If the pool was large enough for her use, the clone in question created a crystal seal brace."
"…the purpose of those braces was to feed that seal Sakura created in that city?" Sasuke asked, his voice soft and controlled even though his eyes were shadowed by his bangs and his hands fisted in his sheets. "Why would she do that? Why go through all that trouble? We thought we could save Ami before it was too late, so why—"
"You know as well as I do that Sakura has always planned for the worst possible scenario," Kakashi interrupted. "She knew there was a possibility that she wouldn't succeed or that she would become possessed during the process. The braces were less for her use and more for Guren's use."
"What?" Sasuke straightened in his bed, his eyes wide and his face draining of color.
"The children Sakura came across on her journey are more than just… well children with special bloodlines." Kakashi sighed and scratched at his head. "Like her, they were also descended from the demon tribes of the south. The Haruno clan of nature manipulators, the Hakina clan of crystal wielders, the Hayuren clan of weather control, and the Hakenchi clan of physical power." And so the story went, Kakashi explained everything he knew to Sasuke. The five noble clans of the spring forest, protected by the five animal kingdoms, how each of Sakura's friends were descended from four of the noble families while she herself came from the royal family of Izumizu. He explained the belief of the Spring Nation knew, comparing how their ancestor drank the water from a leaf of the tree of power, as compared to their own moon goddess who ate the fruit of the tree. He tried to explain everything, Kakashi really did try but at the end of the tale, while the sun began to set on the horizon and bathed the room in copper and gold, Sasuke had one last question that Kakashi wasn't ready to answer.
"So why did they go after Sakura? Why kidnap Ami if she had nothing to do with the demons of the south?" Sasuke asked, "what's Ami's role in all this? How'd she get possessed if she doesn't have demon blood in her veins?"
"…we found out a few days ago that Ami was taken because she was the same as Sakura," Kakashi sighed, his shoulders slumping as he relaxed in his chair. "Sakura and Ami were both born on the same day. Their difference lies in the pointed time of which they were born."
"What the hell dose that have to do with anything?" Sasuke asked, glaring at his teacher
"We found out that Ami had been born exactly at noon on March 28th, the same as Sakura." Kakashi hesitated, his good eyes squinting at his feet as if he didn't want to repeat his knowledge. "That day, ten years ago… there was a solar eclipse. Ami had been born during the two minutes of darkness, directly under the shadow of the sun. we think, that the cultists took her because they thought that she was blessed by their god of destruction."
"They weren't wrong," Sasuke growled, glaring off to the side instead of his teacher. "Ami was a pro at destroying things. Even Naruto couldn't compare to her destructive capabilities." Kakashi chuckled, his mood lightening with the truth of Sasuke's words but once again, silence returned and a heavy weight settled around Kakashi's shoulders again.
"Sakura had been born at midnight, during a lunar eclipse." Kakashi sighed heavily. "She was born in waterfall country." Sasuke stared at his teacher, his face twisting into a frown as he stared.
"…you're leaving something out." Sasuke accused, prompting Kakashi to sigh again.
"We discovered that Ami's mother came from an ancient clan, granted it was only her great grandfather who retained the surname but the blood was still in her veins." Kakashi relented the information. "Ami was a decedent of the Otsutsuki clan. The goddess had two sons and a daughter. Her eldest son formed the Hyuga and Uzumaki clans. Her younger son formed the Senju and Uchiha clans. Her daughter… created the Otsutsuki clan." Kakashi shifted uncomfortably. "Sakura's father was descended from the royal demon tribe of Izumizu, meaning she was a direct decedent of the first man. Sakura's mother was the original heiress of the Uzumaki clan… which also meant that Sakura was a direct decedent of the moon goddess…"
"…She was a powerhouse and none of us realized it?" Sasuke asked, raising his eyebrow at his teacher.
"You know Sakura excelled at suppressing her chakra," Kakashi shrugged his shoulders carelessly, wincing only for a second when his wounded arm throbbed painfully. Sasuke sighed in agreement, he bowed his head and drooped his shoulders. While staring at his lap, Sasuke's eyes landed on the pendent still dangling from his neck; his last memory of Sakura surfaced in his mind and it brought with it a stab of pain to his heart. He had tried for years to gain Sakura's acknowledgement, he only ever wanted to hear her say his name, even if it meant once. But… he never realized that she had been watching him the entire time, she did acknowledge him, she did know of his existence… he just, didn't realize how much she noticed him. Kakashi sighed and stiffly rose from his seat, clasping one hand around his crouch, he hobbled his way back towards the exit. His fellow Jonin had long since left, leaving him alone to answer Sasuke's questions and retell the story they already knew.
"Sensei," Sasuke called out, his voice soft and hesitant. "Sakura… can we… is it possible to…" he couldn't form the words, his voice failing as his mind fell into a jumbled mess of thoughts and theories.
"If we free Sakura, we'll free Ami." Kakashi answered Sasuke's question. "If Ami becomes free, so too will the demon and history will repeat itself. Sakura will undoubtedly have to perform the Seal to bind Ami and herself back to the earth in a state of sleep. Well, Sakura would have to perform if it she's still alive."
"You mean she's dead?"
"I mean right now they're both hibernating." Kakashi clarified. "If we break the seal, Sakura could die from sudden exposure to time. If Sakura dies, then this world will have no one strong enough to reseal Ami and the demon a second time." Kakashi looked back at Sasuke over his shoulder. "I'm sorry Sasuke but, for the sake of this world, we can't release Sakura from the seal. All we can do now, is protect her last effort."
"Meaning the five nations have banded together to protect the seal braces Sakura left behind." Kakashi answered, "Conveniently, each brace is located in or near a hidden village. So any village that has a jinchuriki has employed that person to watch over and protect the seal brace."
"Protect it from what?" Sasuke asked, finally rising his eyes to look at his teacher
"…From people who wish to gain unimaginable power and use it against this world." Kakashi sighed, "That is why the five nation treaty stands, why every jinchuriki remains beside the seal braces, why the war still rages." Sasuke looked down at his lap, one hand fisted the sheets and the other reached up to grip at his pendent. Naruto was a jinchuriki, he would be able to stand beside Sakura's brace and keep her safe. Sasuke evened out his breathing, calming his heart rate and finalizing his decision. No matter what happened, he would remain at Naruto's side and by standing at Naruto's side he could stand at Sakura's.
"I love you," she wept softly, miserable with her choice and the consequences of her actions
Sasuke turned his attention towards the distant window, staring out at the golden and pink twilight bathing the village he knew best. he spent so many years chasing after her, trying to gain her attention, trying to prove that he could stand at her side but… he never stopped to think that she might've been doing the same. He wondered briefly, that if their lives were switched, if he could do what she did. He wondered if he could seal himself away to keep her safe. Wondered if he could force her to climb the ranks just to let her surpass just so he knew she would always be safe. Wondered if he could stand before a demon, withstand its hatred and power just for her. Wondered if he could give her one kiss, admit his feelings and send her away to safety.
"I love you," she wept softly
Yes, he would. He would do all that and again repeatedly for a thousand years if it meant she would remain safe. He could understand the lengths she went to for him, the words she spoke, the attention she gave, and the acknowledgement she delivered. He could understand it all because in the end it drove him to be better and that drove him to be the best the village had. Of course that doubled of ensuring his safety in her eyes. Taking in a deep breath, Sasuke brought the pendent to his lips and whispered the words in his heart. In answer, the pendent gave him a soft emerald glow. A reminder that she heard, accepted and remembered her last words to him.
She also acknowledged his words to her, which meant she heard his voice.
His love still lived and so long as he could feel the warmth of her chakra in their matching pendants, he would be able to survive the war she left behind
You don't know just how joyous I am that this story is finally over
I'm sorry for not updating forever in a half, my job is demanding and my coworkers are all cowards (I say that with love)
Anyways, if you like the story enough to read it to the final ending, reassured someday I'll set about the second coming of the story. I have the generalized idea of how I want to go about it, so I should be able to post the first chapter of the sequel by the end of the year. Pervaded my job doesn't distract me and I don't have to attend another funeral.
Thoughts are helpful
Opinions are Wonderful
Helpful criticism is lovely! Just don't cripple me okay?
And don't forget to rate and review