Hi everyone! I realize it has been quite a time since I have posted. Graduate school turns out to be much more work than I had originally accounted for, and it became virtually impossible to keep up with writing at the same pace as I had in the past. I have been working on this chapter slowly for all of this time, as it was a rather tedious one to write. Fortunately, I am taking a four month break this summer! It is my goal to either finish this story in that time, or at least come close. My next half of graduate school in the fall will be even more hectic than this past one. This should become easier once the war is over. Anyways, I apologize. Another chapter should be coming out soon! I truly do appreciate those of you who continue to follow this story, and the previous one. It really does mean so much. I'm wishing you all the best.
Sasuke stood beside his former companions, now estranged, facing a common enemy. The man he had known as Madara looked entirely different now, for it had not been Madara at all.
It had been easy to stomach the notion of killing the last living Uchiha besides himself. After all, Itachi had seen to it that he would not be the last of his line. And if he faltered, he would risk jeopardizing the villages future. His first concern was that the ten tails had split itself into hundreds of smaller beings. From the looks of it, the allied shinobi were low on chakra.
Sakura ran forward, punching the first monster in the stomach.
She hasn't changed at all. He thought. The monster flew through the air, hitting ten more. Before he knew it, the young woman had flung herself high into the air, charging down to the earth below with a fist. The ground underneath her crumbled into large pieces a hundred feet in diameter. Or not; she's gotten strong! he commented internally. A larger being towered over the young woman and the nearby allies. Naruto and himself fired respective attacks at the creature to defeat it. I shouldn't have underestimated you, Sakura. Perhaps now, you can be of some use to us.
Hikari ran as fast as her feet could carry her, past the cover of trees, towards the battlefield.
"Hikari, you've got to be easy on yourself. You've outrun the White Zetsu. Take a moment to breathe." Itachi's voice warned gently.
"No," the woman panted. "Not yet." Remote viewing to the battlefield far ahead, Sasuke had arrived with the others and was now fighting what looked to be the horrifying figures she had once seen drawn in an old book on a shelf of the man she had once known as Madara. And while both of them had full confidence Sasuke would be protected, there was one last thing she had to take care of.
In time, Hashirama Senju divided his chakra amongst multiple clones in order to control the flow of battle. Hikari would not stop running until she arrived at her target.
Finally, the woman was within telepathic range. That also meant that she was almost within sensory range for the highest rank shinobi. The woman slowed down and knelt behind a fallen boulder, heaving. She closed her eyes and send a message through her mind.
"I am an ally. Send a clone due Southwest for one and three quarters of a kilometer. I have a plan to stop Madara."
Sasuke saw the malice in Obito's eyes as he gazed at Naruto. It was clear he wanted the boy dead more than himself. A lump appeared in Sasuke's gut and he clenched his fist. "You're not the one who is going to sever the past... I am!"
The massive amounts of chakra that had gathered inside the man were too much for his body to take. For a time, Sasuke watched the Uchiha's physical form radically distort, until somehow, he was able to gain control once more. Obito's power was immeasurable, even with Sasuke's sharingan. The boy couldn't help but wonder if the battle had been lost.
Brother... what am I supposed to do against an opponent who can absorb all ninjutsu attacks in perfect defense and offense? His chakra seems to have more than four changes in nature... what then, is his weak point? The boy looked onwards without a change in expression, glancing at Naruto's face filled with as much determination as it always was.
Even now, you're such a fool, Naruto.
Using the strength of the four previous Kage, Sasuke and Naruto continued their onslaught against the jinchuriki Obito. It seemed they were at a loss. With each approach, the Kage sustained heavy damage from the dark matter their opponent wielded. But then, the toad from Mt. Miyaboku shot an attack at the man's shield. Sasuke noticed the change just as his counterpart did; the chakra shield had been weakened. The man began to give a pointless lecture, and they knew it was their chance to act once more. But while Sasuke racked his brain for another attack plan, Naruto had already leapt into the air. With the help of Lord Second's transportation jutsu, Sasuke watched the blonde-haired boy launch the same useless rasengan into the back of their enemy, screaming at the man all the while.
Use your head... the raven-haired boy found himself thinking. You are still too emotional. It's going to get you killed even before I can get to you myself. Naruto landed, circles around his eyes, and grinned boldly. The blond concluded that only senjutsu attacks would work against the ten tails jinchuriki. He had acted more quickly than Sasuke and had developed an effective attack plan.
Sasuke felt something clench inside his gut.
Even with my new eyes... my amaterasu... my susanoo... you continue to get stronger! Why... How do you continue to surpass me?"
Hiding behind the boulder, Hikari caught her breath and waited. With an exchange of several more words, a figure she recognized only out of history textbooks. In ten minutes time, the figure ran past her, unable to sense her presence which she had hidden as a precaution. The woman ran towards him with an outstretched arm.
"Lord Hashirama!" the man turned in half surprise but continued with her to hide behind another fallen stone.
"You sent for me, then, did you?"
"Yes," she smiled. The woman allowed for him to look her up and down, noting their resemblance. She couldn't help but size the man once called the God of Shinobi up herself.
"We are in the middle of a battle. Who are you? What do you know of fighting Madara? You are but a young kunoichi." The realization came at her like a ton of bricks. This man had lived in a time much different than their own. There was even a chance he did not view women as equals in strength.
"My name is Hikari Senju. I am your great granddaughter. The fifth Hokage is my aunt." The first Hokage looked from her hair to her face, then grinned wide.
"Is that right? I can certainly see the family resemblance." The man placed a hand on her shoulder to Hikari's shock. "I have to admit that I had hoped that the Senju name would have died out before now. I had intended for my line to assist in ending clan affiliation." The woman smiled broadly and nodded.
"That is my dream too, and it has been realized with our clan. I am the last of your direct descendants and the Senju bloodline. And that is why I am the best way to help stop Madara."
"I respect your confidence but warn you not to be so hasty. This Madara is a reanimation, and I am the only one who is strong enough to face him in the hopes of coming out victorious. Even if you could use wood style substitutions, it would make no difference." The woman shook her head.
"You don't understand. I can fight beside you and together we can win! It is because I have spent the better part of three years perfecting all of your largest jutsu. It is because in the last two years of my life, I learned to resist the mangyekyo and dissolve a perfect susanoo." With satisfaction, Hikari watched the man's eyes widen to grasp the words she was telling her.
"Such large claims. Why then, have you not been fighting alongside the rest of the alliance?"
"Because I just arrived at the battlefield. I had been trapped in a house guarded by many of the enemy's soldiers. He knew I could be instrumental in this war. It's a long story, but I had to escape him before the war started." It wasn't untrue. The man nodded in understanding. "Listen, I know we don't have much time. When you fight against Madara, I will travel invisibly as an ether to evade his sensory abilities. When I am behind him when he creates his Susanoo, I will rise up using wood style and use a sound style jutsu which will dissolve his jutsu. I've done it before multiple times. While he is vulnerable, we can seal him-" Suddenly, Hikari became dizzy and almost threw up. The man looked at her concerned.
"Your chakra is low, Hikari Senju. No doubt due to your escape. Allow me to transfer some of my chakra to you." Without pausing, the man put his hands out to transfer his life force, closing his eyes. Hikari felt both a warm sense of family she had never known, while also feeling oddly weak in relation to the Hokage with immeasurable chakra even compared to her own. She allowed the rapid influx of energy to restore her. Only a few minutes later, the man stood up with his brow furrowed. Fully restored, the woman looked up at her elder.
"What is wrong?"
"There is something you're not telling me, isn't there Hikari Senju? I didn't become the first Hokage only for my use of wood style, you know." The woman hesitated, waiting for him to say it. "There is a life force inside of you that is separate from your own. Are you having a child?" The woman nodded.
"I am." Hashirama nodded his head.
"Then I cannot risk endangering your life in this plan. You harbor the future of the village inside you!" Hikari grew exasperated.
"I know that! That's why I'm here in the first place. If Madara is not defeated, there won't be a village to raise it in at all! Look at things where they stand now. We're on the brink of being completely overpowered. You have to let me come with you. I would not create a plan that would endanger my child. If I wanted that, I would simply fight Madara myself."
"I'm sorry, Hikari, but I simply cannot take that risk. Madara is simply too dangerous." Hikari fought to maintain the image she had once had of the figure standing before her.
"Why are you underestimating me? I told you just now that if it weren't for the life of this child, I would have just as much a chance as you in defeating him! Time is of the essence!" Out from the distance, another figure approached the two of them.
"Hashirama, who is this woman?" a low voice said in an almost accusing voice. "An enemy?" Hikari turned her head from Hashirama to look at the source of the voice. Just as soon as she did, she almost regretted it. Her expression grew solemn.
It was Lord Second- a clone of the original judging by the lesser amount of chakra.
"Tobirama..." the woman mumbled, crossing her arms in resentment. Hashirama's clone grinned.
"It's not an enemy. In fact, she's our direct descendant!"
"My name is Hikari Senju. I am a master of wood style, and I believe that I could be instrumental" she glanced again to lord First "in sealing Madara."
The two caught the new clone up to speed, Hikari avoiding eye contact with the Second Hokage all the while. Tobirama listened intently as she insisted that she was up to the task at hand.
"While I do not doubt her strength," Hashirama began, "the woman harbors new life inside her. I can't let her move further to the battlefield.
"Hikari Senju, even if you were able to dispel Madara's attacks, there are many variables you have not considered. The ten tails is on the loose, and his direction could easily be changed if Madara began to lose his battle. Risking your life is extremely irresponsible. Does your pregnancy mean nothing to you?" The white-haired man's dismissal was the last straw. Her eyes felt almost bloodshot as she glared daggers into him.
"How dare you doubt my loyalty to my child?! This baby means everything to me, and I will keep them safe not because of you, but in spite of you. I believe that this child will live to become everything that you once feared would arise from your village. They will become the first in a generation of a new era free of the corruption you began. But I cannot keep them safe in the world of Shinobi while Madara remains a threat. Something is coming, something worse than we've ever faced before. And nothing in the arsenal of the Allied Shinobi Force can defend against it. I know this because I was held hostage by creatures that work directly for Madara. This is about more than being cast into a world of illusion. They called it the Great Mother. And I fear that the only thing that can fight against it besides reanimations... is wood style! The end is almost upon us. That is why you have to let me come with you." The two elders thought over her words silently for a time. Finally, Lord Second looked into the woman's eyes suspiciously.
"You say you are a Senju who harbors the future of the village inside of you. Why then would the child live to be something I once feared?" Hikari spoke from anger, not from reason.
"Because I am the wife of Sasuke Uchiha's late elder brother, Itachi Uchiha!" The woman regretted it just after she said it. But it was too late. Even with the influx of chakra she had not slept in a very long time. Time was of the essence. "You never trusted the Uchiha. You built the village alongside them and then ostracized them from the village by creating the police force. You blame the Uchiha for succumbing to a curse of hatred when in actuality the curse was the oppression they were forced to live within. And you thought of them as power hungry even when they slowly had their power stripped away from them. You willingly created a system that lead to the genocide of an entire clan. But you failed. The Uchiha will live, and my child will help to create a better world where your corruption no longer exists-"
"You're wrong, Hikari," Tobirama spoke. "I never intended to isolate the Uchiha from the village." The comment earned the man a wary gaze from the corner of Hikari's eye as he spoke. "While I did believe that their inherent temperament would lead to a power struggle, I agreed that the solution was to dissolve the system of clans, not divide them. I fully recognize my prejudice towards the clan during my life was a mistake. But my intent with the Leaf police force was to use their temperament constructively, and to give them a place of power, where they could work integrated within all areas within the village, unlike the Nara or Akimichi clans, for example, which lived their lives mostly in their own compound." The woman considered this but shook her head.
"You placed them in a position that inherently invited resentment towards them. How could you have been so foolish? Intent means nothing compared to impact," the woman countered.
"Indeed," Hashirama agreed. "But I would appreciate it if you did not place all of the mistakes of the past on my brother. I too, played a role before my passing." Hikari looked towards him, surprised. "It was me who first proposed the idea of a Leaf Police Force. In the last weeks before my death, I remember having a visitor come to my bedside dressed in Leaf attire... it was strange, I don't remember seeing his face, but I do remember his voice. It was the voice of a man who had visited me periodically throughout my childhood." At this comment, Tobirama turned to his elder brother exasperated.
"What?! What in the world are you blabbering about? You never told me anything like that!" The first Hokage made a face something akin to humiliation and befuddlement.
"It was too strange to mention, alright?! There were many new jutsu I was not familiar with during the days when clans had only begun coming together to be a village. The jutsu were different even before then, when we were children. There was much we didn't know. But now it's all coming back." The elder's brows furrowed in deep thought and recollection. "During my youth, shortly after meeting Madara, I was approached by a figure in a tree. It had told me that a conflict was approaching my clan. Shortly after, my clan was massacred and I lost my brother. Then, once more in my early adulthood, I heard from it while walking. I asked who it was, but all I received in response was that I would soon meet the nine tails jinchuriki. Once again, this came to pass. In the end of my life I finally saw its form. A black shadow, small and menacing. I had told myself it was my war weary mind. It was then that the idea of a police force was brought to my awareness. I had never intended on enforcing something so isolating. But because the presence had been correct in the past, I brought it up to you, brother." An image shot through Hikari's mind. And with it, horror. Her heart lurched.
"Preposterous! You had not been well. Are you certain it was not in your imagination?" The elder one shook his head. Hikari crossed her arms.
"He's telling the truth. I know of the creature you speak of... His name is Black Zetsu. He's been watching me for three years. Whatever is about to happen with the Infinite Tsukuyomi, I believe now that he must be behind it."
Obito recovered, and to their collective surprise, summoned a tall stalk with blossoms which produced the same chakra orbs as found with the tailed beasts. He then erected a barrier around the entire allied shinobi forces, in an effort to trap everyone in the blast radius of the explosions. Once more, Naruto responded without missing a beat. And within a matter of seconds, each soldier found themselves wrapped in the nine tails chakra. The tailed beast bombs exploded, and everyone found themselves transported outside the barrier. Naruto explained his plan then to Sasuke, who looked up at him from his own tailed beast cloak.
"You continue to protect the strength of everyone around you... and you are regarded as a hero. But I truly know you, Naruto. Your tactics are only stem from your life of solitude."
Sasuke watched along with Jugo as the blonde-haired boy continued his onslaught with his father, shrouded by etheric fox creatures, and felt for a moment, an unexpected pang of jealousy. Was it from the way he had so quickly earned the respect of his father? No, Sasuke had long let go of any shred of hope he would have gained that level of respect. It was the ease at which he grew stronger, despite all the time Sasuke had spent training long ago. It was the wonder at how much further the boy would go until he reached his limit.
How far will you go, Naruto? How much more will you show them? Then again perhaps he spoke too soon. Just as quickly had he began his onslaught cloaked in the kyuubi's form that he realized the ninjutsu would not work on their enemy. The boy began berating himself, reminiscent of their childhood spent together.
You're too weak, Naruto. If it's senjutsu that works, I can provide it. If only for now, I will make you stronger.
"Hikari Senju, this is the most important mission, and the ongoing war is the perfect distraction for us to undertake it. You must find this Zetsu creature and stop it. If we do not stop Madara and Zetsu together, I fear for the future of humanity itself." Hikari nodded, knowing full well the gravity of the situation.
"I will take my leave, then. Farewell, Lord Hashirama." She bowed respectfully, then looked up to his younger brother. "Farewell to the both of you." Despite her new view of Tobirama's motivations, she could not bring herself to forgive him for the harm he indirectly caused. What a fool to have created a job intended for only a certain group of people. Isolation and segregation of power was bound to breed exploitation of some form, to the Uchiha or by the Uchiha.
"Hikari Senju, wait," the silver haired man stopped her as she turned away from them. The woman half turned her head in anticipation to hear another excuse. "I truly apologize for the pain I have caused you, and to the Uchiha of the past. I have made many mistakes, but now I see that my dealings with the Uchiha clan were my largest downfall. I am proud to know that the last of my clan is fighting to reunify the bonds that have been broken. I'm putting my faith and trust in you that you will raise your child to create a stronger, more peaceful village where its people will no longer have to needlessly die. Keep your child safe. It is the most important priority on behalf of the Senju clan and the future of our village." Hikari thought over his words. Finally, she smiled.
"I will protect my child for as long as I am alive. Thank you for the sentiment, Lord Second."
You have to stay hidden," Hashirama spoke. "From what I remember, the black creature traveled underground. But he is weak, and I don't believe he would be able to hurt your child." Hikari nodded, understanding.
"I'll begin by sensing underground." She looked down and began to realize the difficulty of the situation. "Black Zetsu... is going to be the most difficult enemy for me... We are both sensors with telepathic communication. We can both stay completely unseen... I anticipate much of this night will be comprised of us avoiding each other. But time is of the essence, and Zetsu is physically weak. I will do everything I can to locate and take him down." Hashirama nodded at her happily.
"And I will soon approach Madara. I don't know exactly what lies ahead of us, but I hope that together we can end this war." Hikari smiled, a familiar boldness returning to her eyes.
"Fight Madara with all you've got, Lord First. I won't be far away."
Together, Sasuke and Naruto gained the upper hand, Sasuke's susanoo powered with Jugo's senjutsu, shielding Naruto's fox spirit. Behind them, their former comrades ran to their aid, each obtaining one of Naruto's large rasengan. Sasuke could not care less about his weak former classmates of course. They only served as means to an end. Together, each teammate struck at the jinchuriki, revealing the chakra of the tailed beasts inside him. They roared in an effort to escape.
If it weren't for the tailed beasts having existed at all, this would be so much less trouble. In fact, if it weren't for the tailed beasts, perhaps none of the misfortune of my world would have happened at all. Maybe the Uchiha would not have been feared, and any terrorist organizations would not have become so powerful that they were unmanageable. The tailed beasts were the origin of wars... what use to they have in a new system? Sasuke contemplated this realization silently, as the team began to devise a way to pull the beasts out. Naruto and Sasuke wrestled with the threads of chakra which gave Obito power as the flower overhead continued to bloom and blossom under the light of the scarlet moon.
The allied shinobi force came to their aid in full force. With everyone's combined efforts, Sasuke knew they would overpower this man. And yet, he knew this temporary effort was futile.
So what, if the allied shinobi force defeat this jinchuriki. Who cares if this war comes to an end in our favor? I still know that is not an end. As long as tailed beasts and ninja villages exist, as long as the lands of Fire, Earth, Water, Lightning and Stone continue to pay others to do their dirty work, wars will still exist, and the chaos my brother lived in will come to be once more.
It was because of this, that Naruto's comrades did not shine light on Sasuke's eyes even now in this moment. Sasuke's only true goal was to end this fruitless war, rid the world of this terrible system that allowed it to happen, and then take Itachi's child for himself.
Hikari... where are you I wonder...
What hour was it? What day was it? The crimson moon hovered overhead, massive in the night sky. Alone, Hikari stood with her eyes closed, sensing deep underground. She had used a portion of her chakra to make several clones, in hopes that her opponent could not detect how much chakra flowed within them. A time earlier, she had sensed him hovering a kilometer closer to the battlefield than she stood. But upon moving forward, he must have sensed her and burrowed deeper into the earth. It appeared that it was he, not white Zetsu, that could most clearly locate specific people by their chakra signature.
He knows I'm pursuing him. He must. And if that is true, then I must do something threatening enough to force him to move and then corner him... but that would only make a scene. I can't risk alerting Madara of my wood style. I have no choice but to follow him underground and then turn into ether.
Taking a deep breath, Hikari placed her hand on the ground and created a winding stream of wood to burrow down into the Earth. The wood created a body sized hole nearing thirty feet down before she gasped. The resistance between the wood and the earth had stopped, and not because she had hit solid rock. Hikari mumble to herself quietly, in awe as she remote viewed the source of confusion.
"So, this is it then. This is the tunnel where Obito ventured off to back then... This is the underground cavern where he found all the white Zetsu..."
Alone on a forsaken battlefield, Hikari suddenly felt small and outnumbered. For a hundred feet down below, hidden underneath the roots of the Flower of Life, rested roughly twenty thousand dormant white Zetsu clones. The woman could not help but raise her hand to her mouth in astonishment.
"All this time... all this time I didn't see it..."
For a moment, Hikari watched the battle between Madara and Hashirama begin, silently imprinting the historic moment into her memory. This time, unlike memories of being an awestruck child who never could have imagined a battle of that scale, Hikari smiled confidently. She was brought back to her memory of the day she had married her husband and thought of how much she had grown.
"I really wish I could have tested myself against Madara Uchiha and shown Lord First what I was capable of." Her husband, who had not been far off, smiled at her.
"You don't need to prove yourself anymore, Hikari. You know from experience you are strong enough. Now, you have something much more precious you must protect. You must help to stop the infinite Tsukuyomi." Hikari looked down into complete darkness. "Be careful."
Hikari placed her hand fondly on her stomach and mumbled to her unborn child.
"The most precious thing I have now... I will protect you with my life, even in the darkness at the end of the world." The woman slowly let herself dissolve into ether once more and sunk slowly into the hole in the pitch black Earth.
Whelp that's it for now! We'll have one more War Arc chapter, then we'll go into the aftermath and Boruto's generation from Sasuke and Hikari's perspective!