Disclaimer: I own neither Naruto nor Highschool DxD, and make no profit writing about them.
(AN): Well, here we go. Welcome to part two of my Naruto/DxD crossover series, Ouroboros/Resonance.
Shifting golden sand sought the horizon, with curving dunes hollowed out by the wind as the breeze uplifted clouds of blazing grit to be lit up by the evening sun. To an unbiased bystander it was a sight that spoke of the majesty of nature and the inevitable breaking down of all things into the dust of creation.
Naruto didn't even register it, his azure gaze sightlessly staring into the distant landscape of Kaze no Kuni. He was too caught up in thoughts of blood tribute, burnt souls, and resurrections to worry about something like aesthetic beauty.
The blond turned, his grimace sending the whisker birthmarks on his cheeks rippling with discontent. It was an uncommonly sour expression for the sunny young man, but given the events of the past hour it suited.
Grey sclera circled perpetual Sharingan, the red of Sasuke's eyes seeming darker and less brilliant than Naruto was used to. It suited the Uchiha in a depressing way, considering the faint cracks visible on porcelain skin and the faint but ever-present scent of grave dirt.
The sight only made Naruto even more bitter. "How could they just do this? Why couldn't they just…" Naruto trailed off, running a hand through his sunbright mane and scowling fiercely. "I wanted to come back, yeah, but not…"
"Not like this." Sasuke finished, the exhale intensifying the smell of death. As a reincarnated summon, the Uchiha didn't strictly need to breathe. But the habits of the living were hard to break. "What do you want to do?"
The implicit acknowledgement of authority actually made Naruto feel a bit better. Sakura and Gaara – who were aged and harder than he'd ever seen them – might have torn the two of them across worlds and out of the grave, but at least he had Sasuke at his back. "I don't know. Do you think we'll be able to get back sometime, or are we stuck like this?"
'Like this' meaning that they were a pair of travelers outside time, pulled back into a familiar place and an unfamiliar struggle with one walking among the living and one striding with the dead.
There were too many questions Naruto needed answers to, beginning with why they'd been resurrected by their teammate and what the hell she'd been thinking. Why call them after so long? Why not sooner, if they were so desperate?
"Hard to say. It depends on Ophis I suppose." Sasuke muttered, his bloodless lips drawing tight as he reflected on the Ouroboros Dragon. The Dragon God had brought them into the new world in the first place, and she seemed the one most able to pull them back out; but the last glimpse they'd had of her had been when she was bleeding and furious. Was Sakura so desperate she'd struggle with a god for the right to use them?
A faint note of unusual concern entered Sasuke's usually neutral voice. "There's nothing we can do about it now. Let's just go back in. Or did you need another minute?"
"No." Naruto denied, an unusual hardness filling his voice. "Let's go." Then the reborn jinchuuriki turned, stepping away from the desert sunlight and into the shadowed confines of the sub-baked hospital.
The undead shinobi followed the living, their connection thrumming strong despite the gulf of mortality. One might move with blood and breath while the other was filled with cinders and soil, but they were united by a tie stronger than death; twin vessels born out of chakra and forbidden sacrifice.
Ophis was ill pleased. She had rather carefully selected Uzumaki Naruto and Uchiha Sasuke as candidates for rebirth, and in migrating their souls she'd decided to bind their spirits to her own. Sasuke had been bound even closer, to the point where his essence had started to run into her own and become dependent on her existence.
So it was no shock that when those arrogant shinobi had managed to steal their souls back that it backlashed at her. The sudden frayed connection spanning universes had hurt, and raised up other questions. She'd regretted it when she was forced to feel the Uchiha boy's emotions, but that had just been inconvenient. If some lowly mortals could strike out at her and make her bleed through those children, then the connection wasn't simply troublesome. It was reckless and dangerous.
Sasuke and Naruto had become liabilities, and there were only two ways to solve the problem they now presented. The first was to simply cut her losses and leave them out to dry, and the second was to bind them so tightly to her that no amount of human sacrifice and summoning could tear them away.
"Well." Rias Gremory began, arms folding over her chest with a single finger tapping anxiously at her elbow. "That's a relief. However, that simply leads to more questions. If you're sustaining them here, then where did they go? And more importantly, how do you plan to get them back?"
Half-lidded grey eyes refocused on the impertinent mortal that seemed to have a death wish. The Gremory girl wasn't one of her soldiers, and she had nowhere near the power needed to survive anything more hefty than a backhand from Ophis. Her only point of value was her relation to Uzumaki Naruto and Uchiha Sasuke. A relation that she could, perhaps, make use of.
"They have returned to their universe of origin, summoned back by the shinobi to live in that world once more." The Dragon God shrugged one black silk clad shoulder. "As for duration, it is uncertain. Even for once such as I, transmigrating souls across realities is no simple thing. Doubly so if their souls have been bonded to that world rather than simply reborn in it."
Flicking up a hushing finger to quiet Akeno when the Thunder Priestess opened her mouth, Ophis never allowed her passionless gaze to waver. "In the meantime, there is another problem you must attend to. At the best of speeds, the return of their souls will not be immediate. Yet Naruto Gremory is well known enough that he must be seen. His disappearance will not pass unremarked for long, so someone else must pretend to be him and give the image of health. Preferably you, Rias Gremory, because of your near blood relation. No one else would mimic his mannerisms and abilities as well."
Truthfully speaking, Ophis did not care about the lives of the mortals crowded in the room. They were mere window dressing compared to the potential she'd seen in Uzumaki Naruto and Uchiha Sasuke. But regardless of her preferences they had a common interest, so Ophis turned her mind to the situation at hand with unbounded eons of wily old cunning.
If she needed to deal with these children, then the least she could do was make sure that without a doubt she owned them.
A bright red eyebrow arched. "And how to you suggest we do that? Illusion magic can only do so much, and considering the magical skill of the nobility at large that Naruto needs to be seen by, it would be discovered sooner or later." Rias was suspicious of the Ouroboros Dragon. Ophis made too much of a habit of breezing in and out of their lives like a hurricane, caring nothing for the destruction she left behind. Why now was she suddenly deciding to be helpful?
Ophis' gaze turned bright and cold, with the lolita holding out a hand and gathering dark power in a flex of sorcery. Black scales shimmered like heavy oil under the sunlight, refracting into a faint rainbow of slick colours and shimmering patterns. "Well, that is not such a difficult task. All I need you to do is open wide, girl."
The air filled with the sibilant hissing of a great serpent.
A faint crackle rumbled through his chest every time Sasuke made his undead body breathe in. It was barely noticeable compared to the horrifying colour of his sclera or the thin fissures that marred his clay face, but when he stood silently vigilant behind Naruto's shoulder the Uchiha couldn't help but hear it.
Fragile bone cracked as ribs shifted to accommodate the expansion of undead lungs, the shift of cartilage grinding gruesomely.
Paper rustled as the jutsu that animated his dead body worked to heal the microfractures and restore him to the pristine peace of the grave.
"I want to know everything – and I mean everything." Naruto bit out, azure eyes blazing. There was a level of command in his voice that had been absent the first time he'd died, and its sudden appearance made Gaara and Sakura raise their eyebrows.
Gaara's mismatched gaze - one eye teal green and the other the rippling violet of Sasuke's Rinnegan – flickered towards the dust covered surface of the conference room table. Like much of the hospital, it was pitted with the marks of long use and had a dubious remaining lifespan. "Have a seat." The Kazekage invited in a gravelly voice, syllables rasping as if he'd once had his vocal chords cut.
Considering the dark ropy mass of scar tissue curving around the front of his neck, that probably wasn't so far from the truth.
Without hesitation Naruto grabbed hold of a rickety office chair, ignoring the squeaks as he wheeled the piece of cracked leather furniture about to plop down on. Maybe it was maturity or perhaps it was simply the result of years of training as a Gehennan noble, but he had no urge to bounce around the room screaming like he would have in his first life. He was more contained than that.
Sasuke chose to remain standing, undead flesh hard and tireless. He had no need to rest, and no desire to start exchanging pleasantries like it was a damn tea party.
"I don't wanna beat around the bush." Naruto decided harshly, thinning his lips. Maybe if circumstances were different he'd have been glad to see his old friends again, but his plan to revisit Konoha had never included what was basically a heart attack followed by waking up in a new body again. "It's obvious you guys decided to revive us. Why?"
Chewing one ragged thumbnail, Sakura examined her two resurrected teammates with a faint light of nostalgia in emerald green orbs. "Seventeen years ago you both died." She prefaced quietly, pulling her thumb away from her teeth and settling her folded hands on the table. "Five years after that, Kumo and Iwa declared the Fifth Shinobi World War."
Sasuke blinked when Naruto jerked back in surprise. Was it really that odd? The Third Shinobi World War might have ended in a victory for Konoha against the combined forced of Iwa, Kumo and Kiri. Relations with Kiri had eventually normalized, but Konoha's relationship with Kumo and Iwa had always been contentious. Even temporarily allying for the war against Obito wouldn't have entirely soothed all tensions. If Konoha was going to fight anyone, those countries would be the most likely opponents.
Gaara exhaled when it became obvious that Sakura had lost herself in her own train of memories. Settling a hand over the woman's pink locks, the grizzled Kazekage boldly offered Naruto a challenging stare. "Two years after that Konoha was destroyed, leaving its people a scattered remnant that took refuge in Suna or Kiri. Since then we've been deadlocked in a constant war with the Iwa-Kumo alliance."
That declaration hit Naruto like a mule's kick to the chest. Swallowing dryly, the blond reached up to rub at his neck in an effort to force back the burn of bile. What the hell? He'd known it had to be bad or they wouldn't have resurrected him, but Konoha was just gone? "Well I fucking hope you brought us back here to fix all this shit."
"It was Kakashi's last decision as Rokudaime Hokage to revive the two of you." Sakura sighed. "We needed your strength, so we brought you back with the Edo Tensei. But we needed the real Naruto too, rather than just his power, so sensei used the Rinnegan to fully revive him."
"My Rinnegan." Sasuke said coolly, studying with eye implanted in Gaara's left socket with a narrowed gaze. It might make him a hypocrite considering how he himself had basically pillaged Itachi's corpse to obtain a new set of eyes and stave off blindness, but their willingness to desecrate his body galled him.
Sakura hesitated a brief moment before giving a sharp nod. "That's right." She was well aware that Sasuke would have a negative opinion of her decision – she'd known that when she first extracted his eyes decades ago – but she still stood by that choice. It had been necessary for the good of Konoha.
Demand sharpened Sasuke's voice until it seemed every word would draw blood. "Where's the rest of my body then?"
Caution made Sakura's words slow and measured, with the war weary expression on her weathered features deepening. She looked like she was sixty years old, rather than her true age of nearly forty. "The rest of your body except for your eyes was destroyed a long time ago, on Kakashi's orders. We didn't want other countries playing pirate with your body for your power after you died. The left eye is as you see." She motioned vaguely towards Gaara. "While the right eye became the genetic basis for your Edo Tensei summoning."
Sasuke's first instinct was to offer up a blisteringly sarcastic reply. It was okay for Konoha to hoard his power for itself, but it was a crime if any of the other village wanted to do the same? It was just another prime example of the duplicity that had driven him to decide that revolution of the system was necessarily in his first life.
But Sasuke's first instinct was only his old bitterness rising up, and he'd vowed years ago to try and leave the storm of rage and revenge behind him; so instead he bit through his unfeeling tongue and fell silent. At least they hadn't started pumping his corpse for sperm or trying to graft his genetics into infants like the experiment Orochimaru had once conducted with Hashirama's cells.
In the end, Sasuke had committed too many crimes for power in his day that he couldn't really point fingers at anyone else.
"Damn it, Sakura!" Naruto finally exploded, raking a hand through his golden mane with his face twisted into a rictus of despair and fury. "What the hell went wrong? We all came together to fight against Madara, and when it was all over we were comrades. The world I left behind was on the path to peace, not the road to genocide!"
"The weakness of humanity to their own fear and hunger." Gaara murmured, folding his arms over his chest and seeming to age a hundred years in a blink. "When the villages committed to peace, we agreed to strive for a world without violence. Shinobi weren't going to be hired thieves and murderers anymore. But without those missions going into our pockets, the shinobi villages entered economic decline. Protection missions also dried up, as many shinobi were only employed as guardians against other shinobi. If we weren't killing, we didn't need to be guarded against after all. Some found employment in other fields of work, but for many trying to adapt was hard… too hard."
Sakura tilted her head in agreement. "Shinobi were trained to be warriors and spies, not farmers or glassblowers. It was the only lifestyle they knew, and when things got tough they fell back on it. We started taking on assassination and espionage missions again, and the economy improved. The ideal of peace was forgotten when it was war that put food on the table, and with you and Sasuke dead everyone suddenly remembered how weak Konoha actually was. The Kyuubi did us no favours, Orochimaru just compounded the issue, and Pein nearly destroyed us."
A bitter chuckle burst from Sasuke's mouth; the Uchiha shaking his head ruefully with a rustle of long dark hair. "Naruto and I fought that last time to decide the future, and in the end we agreed to move forward with the idea that peace could be built on bonds and mutual understanding. But everyone only agreed to peace out of fear of our power. That's…"
The slap of Naruto's palm on the tabletop was deafening, cutting off Sasuke's rumination with an echoing clap. "No." the jinchuuriki decided, lurching to his feet with a flash of blue fire in his eyes. "I'm not going to accept that. We weren't wrong the first time, Sasuke. Peace though understanding is possible."
A curled fist thumped against Naruto's thigh as the blond glowered in frustration. "I didn't want to be reborn this way, but I'm here now, and I'm going to figure out what went wrong and fix it. That's my promise for this lifetime, and I never go back on my word!"
The pinched look on Sakura's face relaxed into gentle nostalgia and exasperated fondness. "That's the knucklehead I remember."
"Sasuke." Turning on the spot, the Uzumaki fixed a sharp stare on his undead friend. There was no frivolity pulling at his whiskered cheeks or humor gleaming in his gaze. The only thing that could be found was burning resolve and diamond determination. It was the gaze of the king. "Will you help me?"
And there he was, Sasuke realized. Naruto's second life had taught him to be polished like a son of the nobility, but it had also stolen the magnetic gravitas that had enabled a blond orphan to change the world. Perhaps it was being in his old body that did it, or possibly it was finally taking up a goal he cared passionately for, but that certain spark was back.
A smile curved gravedirt lips. "Moron... do you even have to ask?" Sasuke would be standing there next to him; right to the very end.
(AN): 3000 words. I debated about this for a bit, but I decided shorter chapters suit. Paradox Aeternum is ultimately a one arc story with a narrow focus. The side characters that added to the chapters in Irregular Metronome like Sirzechs, Michael, Riser, Sairaorg, et. are unlikely to appear.
Explain your fiction Power of Destruction – I spoke on it in Ch 27 of Irregular Metronome, but to put it simply it is an energy with the 'breakdown' property. At its basic it dissolves molecular/atomic bonds and reduces anything physical it hits to ash. Higher levels of it adapt the breakdown property so it targets other things like energy or magic. Essentially, it can dissolve anything if you're skilled enough.
The only way to not get killed by it is to either dodge or constantly throw up shields and hope you manage to 'soak up' the Power of Destruction before it hits you.
This is of course, non-canon. But I reserve the right as a fanfic author to play with canon.