BONUS #37:

[wwwdot] fanfiction [dotnet] /topic/185326/159693702/1/


Amegakure

"I believe you summoned us here for an important meeting, Tobi-sama."

With no small amount of glee, Tobi noticed that Nagato was trying his very hardest to stay civil. Naturally, this meant he absolutely had to prod him.

"Yes, Tobi has some very important things to say!" he bounced up and down in his chair, making sure to use the third person like a cutesy five-year-old girl. "One, Tobi is a good boy~! Two, Tobi is a very very very good boy~! Three, Tobi is a wonderful boy who – "

Immediately, Nagato winced, having done this enough times to know exactly where this would lead. "Tobi-sama, please – "

Tobi mock-gasped. "Tobi is not a good boy! Tobi made Nagato-sama sad! Tobi is very sorry!"

"Tobi-sama, please. It is only the three of us," Konan interruped. "You do not need to pretend before Nagato and me – "

"Tobi doesn't know what you are talking about it. Tobi is a good boy and Tobi will listen to Nagato-sama because Tobi is a good boy – "

"WILL YOU STOP?"

At this, Tobi completely switched his personality around. "Relax, Nagato-sama. Honestly. All of that pent-up anger…that can't be healthy."

Nagato rolled his eyes.

"And for your information, I actually don't exist solely for the purpose of making other people angry," Tobi interrupted sweetly, knowing exactly what the other was thinking.

"Perhaps we should get back on topic and discuss the truly important things, instead of arguing with each other like this," Konan suggested, as calm as ever. "Like the rest of the jinchuuriki, for example. The Ichibi is still missing and Konoha hasn't given any indication what they've done to him. Maybe we should leave him alone for now and target the Nibi instead?"

At this, Tobi allowed his demeanor to take a more serious turn. "Yugito Nii is well-trained and even more well-guarded." He snorted derisively. "Kumogakure is the only village that actually knows what to do with their jinchuuriki."

"She is a powerful ninja in her own right, but so are all the members of the Akatsuki."

"The problem isn't capturing the jinchuuriki," Tobi explained. "It's Kumogakure as a village. We have no missing-nin from Kumogakure in our fold, and they are extremely possessive of their bijuu. If we stole a ninja from Iwa or Kiri, no one would bat an eyelash. But if we attempt anything on Yugito Nii, we would be noticed immediately – for a failure would only result in her reporting back to her superiors, and a success would cause said superiors to notice her missing. We can't randomly snatch her up like we did to the others."

Konan nodded. "By that logic, Konoha would also be a problem. It's as if every single ninja they spit out from there has a teammate complex. Didn't you hear about what Kakashi Hatake did to Orochimaru when the guy attacked while his students were taking the Chunin exams – "

"I KNOW," Tobi roared, and Konan and Nagato jumped in their seats. Deep breaths. Calm down. Don't think about that – that dirty promise-breaker, and you'll be fine. "Let's not talk about Konoha or Hatake."

Nagato cleared his throat and changed the subject. "I would like to mention that Kumo has always been very self-serving and independent. If someone went missing from their village, they'd send people after us, but the point is, they'd try to take care of the problem alone. Konoha, on the other hand, would be the very first to stir up trouble with their neighbors. A mass alliance with us as their common enemy is the last thing we need."

Tobi leaned back and started tapping the chin of his orange spiral mask. "Then we'll just have to ensure those alliances never happen. The villages would be liable to bring out their best weapons during war, and if people go missing, it's more likely that the loss would be attributed to other villages, or combat casualties, than us."

"Yes, but we've already tried that," Nagato said. "Tanyu, remember? It didn't work. Konoha didn't even so much as point a finger at Iwa. Somehow Jiraiya figured out it was us, even after we used Kiri as a catspaw."

Tobi waved a hand dismissively. "Forget Konoha. They already knew about us. It's not about convincing Konoha to go to war against others; it's about convincing others to go to war against Konoha. And by others, I mean Kumo. Whatever it takes to bring both villages' jinchuuriki out into the field."

Nagato and Konan both bowed, and left. When they were gone, Tobi – once upon a time, known as – well, that wasn't important, because that was no longer him anymore – settled back in his chair and closed his eyes. Sleep rarely came easily to him; even the shortest naps were highly valuable. Most of the time, he wouldn't be able to get a few minutes in before everything would just come running back at him and no he wanted to forget why couldn't he just forget –

The nightmares came anyway, unbidden. No matter what he tried to do, they always came, and they were always the same. First, excruciating pain. And then, nothing but the musty smell of stale air. All feeling, gone. Surrounded by dirt and dimness, unable to see even the smallest hint of sunlight. And then, just as he had been about to accept that his life had been forfeit –

Tobi didn't care much. About how he was still alive, that is. He touched the rough half of his body; it was definitely not flesh. Artificial. But it was a part of him, and it was keeping him alive. So he stuck with it.

And while he remembered loving fresh air and missing the sun, he couldn't fathom why. There was nothing really special about fresh air and sun. Tobi chalked it up to yet another one of his naïve idiosyncrasies of youth, quirks that he had long since grown out of.

Who am I? Black Zetsu had said, the first time they met. I am the will of the gods.

"Gods? You mean…like the Sage of Six Paths?"

Your precious Sage? Black Zetsu had laughted. He is nothing compared to me. He gave chakra to the world like a fool. I am the origin of chakra itself.

"The origin of chakra? But – how – I'm confused – " Tobi had asked, like the stupid child he once was.

The Sage of Six Paths was the first person on earth to be born with chakra. How could a helpless newborn have gotten such a power?

"Well – if he was born with it – then maybe something happened while his mother was…"

Exactly. Your god would be nothing without his gift. And who do you think gave that gift to him?

Tobi's eyes snapped open, cold sweat running down his face. For just a second, he remembered being someone else, and then it was gone again, all in the blink of a single Sharingan eye.


Wave Country: the Cave

Flashes of falling rock –

Iron –

Red earth −

The moment he saw the boulder coming down, Kakashi lunged for Ino and Shikamaru. I can't teleport with passengers, but if I get there fast enough I can grab them and get them out of the way first. I'll worry about the rock and myself later, he added, even though he knew in his heart that his timing wouldn't allow him to save himself as well.

Pick a seal; the one on Ino or Shikamaru?

The Hiraishin marker sparked. He jumped –

Ino flew through the air crap why is my reference point moving?

− and landed an entire meter behind where he should have.

Ino, still airborne, crashed into him.

"He threw me," she rasped, and Kakashi could only think, in horror, I should have picked the seal on Shikamaru as the boy disappeared behind half a ton of compacted sandstone.

Sick, he felt sick. The iron scent of blood. Obito's broken face smiling up at him. The walls of the cave moved inwards, shrinking, tightening around his chest, and he couldn't breathe, but this wasn't claustrophobia, couldn't possibly be; he had crawled through pipes and tunnels and the narrow spaces between wall panels without issue; why should a cave filled with falling boulders be any different?

His vision tunneled, blurring everywhere except right in front of his face, where the piece of scum responsible for that rockslide was drawing a dagger.

And something inside Kakashi broke.

"You lot," he spat, "are all much too alive for my liking."

The cleverest one of the bunch was also the first one to realize his best course of action was to run. Unfortunately for him, he was also the one standing closest to Kakashi.

Kakashi pulled his elbow back, and let his knuckles snap forward with enough force to shatter some ribs, or maybe cause some vital organs to explode, or both. Knees, his knees, swung forward, up and around; his foot caught a cheekbone on the front so hard it concaved like an inside-out contact lens; the strength of his kick made his whole leg rebound, where his heel met another shattered skull. Then the back of his knee contacted a third person, and yes, that definitely felt like a neck, so with his leg still looped around that patch of vertebrae, he corkscrewed in the air, using his waist as a fulcrum, and SNAP went their spine.

The curse seals were making them stronger, but at the end of the day, a snapped neck was still a snapped neck, and they dropped to the floor like a sack of rocks. If Kakashi had stopped to observe his surroundings, he would have noticed blank eyes, but in the moment, he had already zeroed in on his fourth victim. In an instant he was launching himself through the air, not caring that he was diving headfirst into a horde of artificially enhanced freaks of nature.

He caught his fifth by the throat and collapsed his windpipe with a well-aimed punch. He struck his sixth, over and over again, as if his fists were made of hardened steel instead of flesh. Whatever damage he was causing himself in his mindless attacks, he did not feel.

"Ten dead in fifteen seconds," he hissed, dropping the remains of his latest kill on his sandals. "I must be getting slow."

Before him, the survivors turned and ran.

They didn't get far.


ANBU Containment Complex 317-C, Level 7B

The demon inside him no longer spoke to him, except in nightmares. But the nightmares never lasted more than a few seconds at a time before he would be woken up by a feeling of burning chakra on his stomach, and when he did wake up he'd completely forget what the demon had been trying to tell him. All he could remember were short snatches of "Mother" and "sand", but otherwise, nothing.

That was not Mother. That was never Mother.

The demon's name is Shukaku. And your name is Gaara.

He had moved cells multiple times thus far – eleven, if he was counting correctly – each one bigger than the last. He had lost track of how long he had spent in this place otherwise. Every cell they gave him was comfortable, and they always put some sort of genjutsu on the walls to make it more interesting. They adjusted the lighting, too, to imitate sunlight during what was supposed to be day hours and starlight at night.

Gaara wondered why he felt so accepting of this situation. He had heard many tales of men doing desperate things when trapped in one confined location for a long time. Maybe it was because he had never known any freedom to begin with.

Besides, the people were decent to him. Most of the time, they would just sit there and talk. And listen, when Gaara had things to say. Gaara rarely had things to say, but the point was, they cared when he did.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, his brain registered that he was still in a prison, no matter how well-treated he might be here. But this prison was only a physical one. He had been in prison his whole life, even if he was outdoors. This was a step above that.

That was what he tried to convince himself. One day, they promised, we'll let you out. We're just making sure that you don't relapse and try to kill everyone around you. Hope, that one day he'd really be free. Hope was a foreign concept to him, but it wasn't entirely unpleasant. Just like the concept of people not screaming and running away from him…

Konoha was different, obviously. In Suna, people regarded him with distrust. Well, actually, in Konoha, they distrusted him, too, but they gave him the same amount of distrust they gave Temari and Kankuro, so it wasn't about him specifically. The other kids didn't scream and run away from him; that was for certain. Until he had started that bloodbath during the second phase – but no one really escaped to tell the tale then…

…He was never bored in this place, that was for certain. There was always something for him to do. Books. Cards. Board games. Sand and water. Clay. Plastic toy bricks. Paints. Origami. Movies. TV programmes. Food. Paper and pencil, to "put his feelings down on paper" – he wasn't very good at it, but the blonde man assured him that he was getting better. He said his name was Inoichi. I suppose I should remember that; I haven't heard many names in this place. If he ever wanted anything – more knowledge, or a craft, or entertainment, or human companionship – all he had to do was press a button and speak into the box.

Politely, of course. The first few times, they let him get away with just saying "I want," but after that, they always insisted that he use "would like" and "may I" and "please" instead. Gaara didn't see what the difference was, because those extra words seemed like a waste of breath for him, but he humored them anyway since arguing just brought more strife.

No killing things here, Gaara. No throwing a tantrum just because you can't get your way.

If he ever did something bad, they'd take little privileges away. If the transgression was minor, like ignoring the blonde man, Inoichi, when he tried to initiate a conversation, they'd force him to be the one to talk first the next time he came down. If it was major, like trying to make up for Shukaku's absence in his mind in some violent way, they'd take away all the nice wallpaper and trinkets and force him to sit in the corner and think about what he'd done.

He was getting a lot better, though. They hadn't taken anything away recently – on the contrary, there were always so many things to do at any given moment that Gaara often wished he had more time to just explore all of his options. So the fact that this entire time, he had been trapped between four walls a ceiling and a floor, for twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, had barely registered.

Until today.

"I want to go out," Gaara demanded.

Silence.

"Please?" Gaara added, perhaps a bit belatedly. He wondered if that would count against him.

Inoichi tilted his head to the side. "Again? You just spent the whole morning running around in the exercise yard."

"No, I meant, out. Of here," he explained.

"Ah, I see," Inoichi said, making a mark on his clipboard. "Why do you want to go outside?"

Gaara frowned. "I don't know. I just…do. You promised that you'd let me out one day." There was that sinking pit of despair again, one that Gaara hadn't felt since he was very small, when none of the other kids wanted to play with him. A childish sentiment. He didn't know why it was resurfacing now.

"And we will. Tell me, what are you planning to do once you go out? What do you want to see? Who do you want to meet? What do you hope to do? You need some sort of direction in your life, Gaara, or it will all be completely pointless."

Inoichi always liked asking these hard questions, because they never had any right answer. You couldn't look up Inoichi's questions in a book. He had read many books during this time span, and he could say with certainty that none of them ever had any answers for Inoichi's questions. Mainly because Inoichi's questions were always about him, and no one had ever written any books about him.

"I want to meet…more people…? Besides just you? Hopefully they'll be like you, though. And not. You know. The others."

"Okay. That's reasonable enough; I'm sure there will be plenty of friendly people you can talk to. Anything else?"

Gaara shrugged. "So you're not letting me leave today?"

"Not right away, unfortunately. It's not your fault; I just have to do a bunch of stupid paperwork." Inoichi shrugged and grinned. "Silly pencil pushing and all that. How about I make it up to you by taking you outside the gate tomorrow?"

Outside the gate! Gaara loved going beyond the fence. They didn't do it very often, but when they did, he got to climb trees and jump around and chase the squirrels.

"Yes!"

Inoichi made another mark on his clipboard. "All right. But you have to promise me that you'll be good, okay?"

"I promise I'll be good," he whispered. "I won't lose control ever again, I promise."

"And I trust you, Gaara. Until next time."


Wave Country: the Cliffs

Naruto's veins were ice.

Which was sadly ironic, considering he was surrounded by fire on every side.

The air was saturated with the thick blanket of wood smoke and burning sap and the sharp stabbing acrid scent of ignited alcohol and formaldehyde and a million other chemicals he had no idea how to identify. His eyes filled up with tears and grit; his nose peeled itself raw; his throat was worse than the deserts of Sunagakure. Everything was too loud, too bright, too crowded, too hot and too cold at the same time.

None of that mattered when Ino, Shikamaru, and Kakashi-sensei were nowhere to be found. Just a bunch of monsters with ugly snarling faces and beady aundiced eyes and feather-shaped tattoos of black ink spiraling across their backs and chests like an evolving fungus, and they were there but not Kakashi-sensei and Ino and Shikamaru.

His lungs collapsed.

It wasn't the smoke and fire. Naruto snapped his head up and barely managed to roll to the side as an enormous fist the size of his thigh came bearing down upon him again. The rock cracked, and it would have been comical – for the owner of said fist was only half his size – had they not been trying to kill him.

Sparks erupted around his broken ribcage as the Kyuubi's magic did its work. Naruto smirked at his opponent's shock.

Ha-ha! You're not the only one with unreal healing abilities around here!

The giant rhino-thing swung his other fist. Naruto dodged once more, jumped to his feet, and prepared to slug the guy in the stomach –

− but then the guy's chest opened up of its own accord and a bunch of tentacles burst from the hole in one of those bizarre moves from the alien parasite horror movies he'd sneak into as a kid and what in the world that was nasty

They weren't tentacles, they were wooden branches, and they also caught fire, and what the heck did a bunch of branches just explode out of him what?

"Naruto, get up!" Yamato snapped. Naruto was yanked up by the collar and dragged across a patch of empty ground. And not a moment too soon; the moment he had vacated his earlier position, an entire porcupine's worth of quills filled his place. Yamato turned, and in one fluid motion buried a kunai into the skull of a woman with long spiky hedgehog hair. She was Jiraiya, only black hair instead of white. And she had lines of piercings all over her cheeks instead of face paint.

She went down, jewelry clinking −

She stumbled to her feet, forehead still dripping, and yanked the kunai out. The dribble of red became a spurting fountain. Naruto thought she was done for –

The black marks pulsed, and the wound sealed itself.

Asymmetrical, horrifying, monstrous, they were all monsters, they were crawling at him, Ino and Shikamaru and Kakashi-sensei needed him, and he couldn't get to them because these things kept getting in his way!

They hurt my friends. They hurt them. I can smell blood on them. My friends' blood.

A claw wrapped around his neck. It started squeezing the life out of him. But if they thought that was all it took to drain the fight out of Naruto Uzumaki, they had another thing coming.

Ninja Rules, Abridged: there is no such thing as fighting dirty.

It was unfortunate, for the poor soul trying to kill him, that a jinchuuriki was the most dangerous and unstable when they were at their weakest point. A contradictory statement, but that was unimportant when a pair of two-inch-long claws were raking down your eyes.

"That bastard!" someone yelled; Naruto wasn't sure who, since there were at least twenty of them. "Capture the Copy-Nin! Just take the damn kids as bait and he'll go barrelling into whatever trap you give him,they said! It'll be easy; Konoha nin are bleeding hearts for teammates,they said! 'Couple of dumb Genin,' my ass!"

"What is that thing?" one of the others screamed. "That is not a freaking Genin!"

His heel met something soft and squishy. Someone's gut. Good. He buried it deeper. His tongue scraped something sharp.

Another arm wrapped around his head. He sank his razor-sharp fangs into it. The flesh gave way easily. His teeth kept going until it met hard bone. Hard bone became brittle bone. It cracked and broke, too, spilling out the orange marrow. Shrieks of pain. He kept going. He felt tree branches wrapping all around him, draining his chakra, but instead of becoming weaker all he felt was moremoremoreMORE chakra coursing through him in a never-ending flood and splinters were flying everywhere, evaporating into smoke as they hit the flames and he kept going and going and going because orange, everything was orange. Splinters flew; they were the size of large twigs. They, too, were orange. He didn't know where Yamato was. The orange grew and grew, and his skin was burning but his veins were ice.

Wait.

Orange?

Why was bone orange?

On that note, why was everything as far as he could see orange? The stuff was everywhere, lighting up the night with an eerie glow, a beast indiscriminately consuming everything in its path, plowing through the sandstone, as easily as Naruto could finish a bowl of ramen (which he really, really wanted right now, because ramen was so much better than watching dozens of people instantaneously dissolve alive).

Ha, hah, HA, BWaHahHAHA! You really are stupid!

"SHUT IT, FOX!" Naruto screamed. "What are you doing, my friends are in trouble, stop stop stop STOP IT!"

What do you mean, stop it? You've mastered some of my tails already, haven't you? You can call upon that portion of my chakra whenever you want. All of that is yours to control.

"No!" Naruto sobbed. "Don't, don't − !"

Oh, you stupid little thing. Don't you get it? Don't blame the madness on me, kiddo. This is you. This is all you.

"Stop it! Stop it! STOP IT!" Naruto screamed himself hoarse, and so was Yamato, and oh there you are Yamato, I can see you now. Where did you go?

What? Yamato was screaming something, too.

"NARUTO! STOP! STOP!"

And he was going to stop, I swear I was going to

But then right in front of his face one of Orochimaru's experiments was hobbling away, back turned to him, fully exposed. And armies were easiest to kill when routed.

Naruto could smell the earth and the wind and the scent of his friends on that man. The earth and the wind and the blood of my friends on that man. His disgusting claws and fists, they were stained with the smell of Ino and Shikamaru. That's him, right there. That was the one that had drawn first blood and that man made my friend bleed and he was right THERE and I can't stop here and that man had to pay for what he did someone needs to draw his blood and he was running away from Naruto by fleeing underground I have to catch him before he escapes who's the real monster now I don't know.

So Naruto did not stop.


A/N: Remember in the canon Wave arc, where Naruto thought Haku killed Sasuke, and he went a little nuts? Now, think of how badly that might have ended for Haku, had he been dealing with Naruto when he was already halfway through his bijuu training.

Also, I would like to note that Jiraiya isn't training Sasuke instead of Naruto. They're both learning, eh, "different" techniques.