Chapter 10: Shidare

Iruka stood in the shadows, his body hunched down and trembling. It was there, the Kyubi. Its low growl echoed around him, a rolling thunder that sent chills rocketing up his spine, even though the fox was nowhere near him. It was off in the forest, but its growl reached every corner of the village.

"Mother..." he whispered and then shook his head fiercely, silently berating himself for acting like a little child. His mother wasn't here; she was out fighting alongside Iruka's father. She wasn't hiding in the shadows, trembling in fear. Iruka clenched his hands into fists, a little too hard, blood welling out beneath the broken skin. Iruka slowly opened his hands and stared at the marred palms. Little drops of blood sat there, shining in the dusk light. Resolutely he wiped the blood off on his shirt, stepping out from the shadows and letting the dying light from the sun fall across him.

"Father…" he whispered, this time without the note of desperation in his voice. He though of his father, so strong and so gentle. He loved his father dearly, more than anyone else. People always commented on how he looked so much like his parents. He had his mothers round face, her mouth, her nose, her chin. The only feature he inherited from his father was his eyes. They were a deep brown, dark and full. They conveyed his every emotion, and actually ranged in color from a dark stormy brown to a light creamy tan color. He loved his eyes, and how they seemed to reflect how he felt. They could be burning hot, or freezing cold. They told everything, saw everything. And that suited him.

He ran through the village, past the shops and the homes, past Ichiraku, where he and his father ate together, past the academy, past every empty and desolate street devoid of life. Everyone in the village was hiding or fighting. He could see the tiny slits in the drawn curtains where the curious children stared at him as he ran by. He wanted to scream at them for being weak and hiding, but he couldn't fault them. Not when his whole body was trembling, his eyes wide and staring in fear. Yet, he still ran forward, closer to the feeling of foreboding in the distance. The place where the smell of blood was coming from.

He could smell it on the sharp breeze that wafted through the empty streets. If he thought about it, he could almost taste the bitter rust in his mouth.

He turned left onto the next street and ran a little slower. The forest was just down the road. He slowed to a jog, his body still not able to run full speed for very long. He stared down at his shadow, barely able to make out the outline of it. The sun had almost set, throwing everything into a pale red that almost seemed to … glow. Shaking his head to rid himself of the sudden dull throb he was feeling, he slowed to a halt, then froze as he felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise.

Iruka slowly raised his eyes to meet those of the Kyubi. There it was, towing over the forest, making him feel so small and insignificant that he longed to just turn away, run back to his house, where he would hide, waiting for his parents to come home.

The Kyubi's eyes were wide and staring, never blinking. They seemed to stare directly at him, into him, but he knew they were focused on the army of Shinobi at its feet. Steeling himself with a deep shuddering breath, he started forward again, straight towards the demon and his parents.

He ran straight into the forest, his steps swift and sure. He had grown up in the forest. He was as comfortable in them as he was in the city. Shinobi of the Leaf Village were raised that way. He ran straight into the heart of the forest, ignoring the cramp in his side, ignoring the horrible headache he was getting, and overlooking the fact that the sun was no longer visible in the sky, yet the entire forest seemed to shimmer red.

A loud roar caused him to miss his step and forced him to frantically grab for a branch to keep his balance. He shot his head upwards to stare at the Kyubi. The demon roared again and lunged downward, its jaws wide and gaping. From his close vantage point, Iruka could see the rows of razor sharp and gleaming teeth. Involuntarily he shrank back, fear seeping into his body and causing him to tremble.

The Kyubi roared in rage as its jaws mashed against an invisible wall, which flared a violent purple wherever the demon touched.

Gnashing its teeth in rage, the Kyubi reared back, its tails coming in close to its body, where they stood straight up for a second, shaking, before resuming their thrashing. A loud humming filled the forest, and Iruka could see the demon fox quivering, as if ready to pounce. Iruka watched as a very faint red glow outlined the fox, and couldn't help but cry out as the fox let out another earth-shattering roar and lunged forward to meet the resistance from the barrier. The Kyubi strained forward, its low growl rolling like thunder, and suddenly, the barrier shattered.

Iruka felt a wrench as the jaws of the demon dived to the ground, in the midst of the fighting Shinobi. As close as he was getting, he heard the screams of dozens of Shinobi as they were town apart in the jaws of the Kyubi. Iruka felt tears spring into his eyes, and he hastily wiped them away, but could still feel them burning. He had to find his parents! Some part of him knew who helped with that barrier Jutsu. His mother had a violet chakra, or at least, it seemed that way to him. She reminded him of violets. Sweet, beautiful.

Iruka moved forward now, moving from tree to tree, until he caught sight of the clearing where the Shinobi were gathered. He paused, just out of sight, and stared at the clearing, his eyes quickly passing over the increasingly large number of corpses. He scanned the crowd, staring intently at the faces. He knew some of the Shinobi he saw, mostly friends of his parents. He passed over face after face, but did not immediately spot his mother and father. It was only after he had looked over the majority of the crowd did anxiety begin to set in.

Frantically he glanced over the crowd again, hoping beyond hope that he had missed them in the dozens of faces. His eyes froze in their scanning, and Iruka felt himself release a breath he hadn't been aware he was holding. There was his father, kneeling on the ground and tending to a wounded Shinobi. With a start, Iruka recognized him as Anotsu, his academy instructor. He recognized the unruly shock of hair, which was now matted with blood.

Iruka watched his father tend to the Shinobi, as all the ninja around him were attacking the demon fox, the air of the clearing fairly glowing with the flurry of jutsus. He absentmindedly admired the calm his father showed, and the single-mindedness he exhibited as he quickly and efficiently fixed bandages onto the bleeding Anotsu. Suddenly, his father whipped his head up, then screamed "Here it comes!" His hands flew together and formed the Barrier Jutsu so rapidly Iruka had trouble following it.

Surprised at the quickness in which his father went from treating the wounded to shouting a warning and acting, it took a moment for Iruka to whip his head up just in time to catch a flash of white teeth, and the ground around him exploded. Iruka felt himself lifted from the ground and flung backward with force. He slammed into a tree, the frail wood cracking and splintering as his back collided with it. He felt a sharp cry of pain escape from his lips, then he sank to the ground, the world around him fading into a hazy darkness.

Iruka lay there for a few minutes, dazed, before he slowly lifted his head. His body went rigid with shock as the first thing he laid his eyes on was a bloody and mangled corpse at his feet. His stomach protested at the bloody mess, and Iruka was forced to close his eyes and clench his teeth together. Part of him was glad the man –or woman- at his feet was unrecognizable. Then his eyes flared open. His father!

He forced his eyes to look to the spot where his father had previously stood. Eyes watering, from both the pain and the thought of what he might find, Iruka slowly gazed at the rubble that remained.

The ground was churned into hunks of grass, trees, dirt, and… people. Dozens of Shinobi lay mangled, butchered, and dead. Jounin, Chunnin, both laid scattered, so easily scattered like leaves in the wind. Iruka could feel his heart beating wildly in his chest. His breath stilled with a gasp as his gaze finally fell on his father.

A sob tore through his body. He screwed his eyes shut and looked away.

-no, no that isn't true, that isn't right, he was there just a second ago-

More sobs wracked his body, the brief image he saw searing through his mind. His father, or what was left of him, lay in a pool of blood and gore, his body torn and mangled, his sightless eyes staring silently into the night sky, devoid of the laughter and life that had always lit them. Now, he was just gray, a silent devoid gray and the mere sight of it made him cry out in pain and anguish.

The Kyubi above him roared, and to Iruka it seemed like laughter and triumph. A rage overtook him, a white-hot burning rage that filled his veins with anger and malice, a rage that threw away all other thought. Without thinking, he rose to his feet, his hand fumbling for a kunai, which lay half buried in the dirt at his side. The only thought that entered his mind was to attack that fox, hurt the thing that cause him so much pain. His fingers wrapped around the kunai, he could feel his fingers throbbing from his tight hold on it.

-how could you, how can you, that was my father-

The next thing he knew, he was surrounded by shapes. Shapes that were people, people in animal masks and black clothes. The Anbu squads had arrived. Iruka was struck by how… deadly they seemed. They were silent, not a sound betraying their presence. They stood confidently, standing straight and defiant. Staring at them, and the promise of death that seemed to emanate from them, Iruka felt the anger slowly fade away, the kunai falling from nerveless fingers to land on the ground, which was nothing more than blood and dirt mingled into rough piles. A small sob escaped from his mouth, and one of the Anbu members turned around, the animal mask fixing its gaze on his small form, emotionless. Iruka stared back dully. The member said something he couldn't hear and broke away from the group, striding towards him. Iruka slowly sank to his knees, the tears flowing unheeded down his cheeks.

"Father…" he whispered. The Anbu bent down, the mask of a raccoon inches away from his face.

"Where do you live?" A man's voice asked him. Iruka stared down at the ground, at the mixture of blood and earth, and couldn't find the words to answer. He felt a gentle hand touch his chin and lift his face up into the moonlight, where another slowly traced the scar across his face.

"You're the Umino kid." The man stated. Iruka could only stare dumbly back. He didn't answer.

The hands fell away from his face and grasped him around the middle. He felt himself lifted into the air and tossed carelessly over the man's shoulder. Iruka didn't make a sound. The Anbu member dashed away and Iruka closed his eyes, feeling the cold wind brush gently against his cheeks, playing with the loose strands of hair that fell around his face. He lost track of time, and suddenly he was at his house, in his room, where the Anbu member set him down in the middle of the floor.

"Stay." The man ordered. He stared at Iruka a moment, as if sizing him up, then bent down again so he was eye to eye with him.

"Thank you." Iruka murmured, finally raising his eyes to stare at the mask. A gloved hand reached up and grasped the bottom of the mask and slowly lifted it up, revealing the face of an older man, who stared without expression down at Iruka.

"My name is Kinobu. I am a friend of your mothers. My deepest sympathies, for she fell in battle." Without another word, the mask was put back in place and the Anbu member was gone.

Iruka sat alone on the cold hard floor of his parents bedroom, his cheeks wet with new and old tears, his whole body aching. He could feel the numerous bleeding cuts on his body, the pain shoved somewhere at the back of his mind. He sat there, in complete silence, not moving, staring blankly ahead. Thoughts flew through his mind. None of it seemed real to him. His clenched his hands into fists. Why was he being so weak? Why was he always so weak…

He pushed himself onto his feet and stumbled towards his bed. He made it most of the way before the head pains hit him. Sharp ice cold needles of pain seemed to imbed themselves in his temples and with a low cry of pain he crumpled to the floor. Everything slid out of focus, wavering between darkness and light.

"Mom…" he whispered, before the room around him vanished. He found himself back in the forest, standing in that clearing of blood and earth. The Kyubi growled above him, but he wasn't afraid. This wasn't real. None of it was real. He turned his gaze upward, seeking out those hate filled eyes that he had met once before. The eyes of a blood-hungry fox. Brown and red clashed, liked the blood and earth they both stood on. It seemed somehow… right, that he was here with the fox. He could feel the hate welling up inside of himself like some sort tangible thing, a dark inky blackness that cried out for him to attack the fox, while his heart told him that he would never win. Not that way. He was torn between two worlds, two possible solutions. There was white and black, and a welcoming, warm gray that seemed so familiar. Should he attack the fox? Something told him that he could destroy it if he wanted to. And it seemed as if he could feel a strange power welling up inside him, a power that didn't feel right. It felt dangerous, wrong. Suddenly, before he realized it, bloody tendrils were reaching for the fox, wrapping around its neck and squeezing, and it was coming from him, he couldn't stop it.

Stop! He cried. Please, stop! The tendrils were wrapping around the fox, latching onto its legs and tails, squeezing.

He opened his mouth to cry out again, but what emerged caught him by surprise. The wail of a baby seemed to shatter the world around him, a single cry that seemed so out of place, yet so right at the same time. And there was so much emotion and feeling and pictures in that single cry that Iruka found himself frozen in place. He stood there for just a moment, before a brilliant blue seemed to rush past him. He felt great power in this blue, combined with the piercing wail, the blue flashing so brightly that Iruka longed to cover his eyes from it, and his ears were ringing. When at last the beautiful light died away, the fox was gone. He found himself back in his room, laying on the floor. He stared up at the ceiling for what seemed like hours, before working up enough effort to drag his body to the bed and collapse on it, where he promptly fell into a troubled sleep. He didn't wake for nearly a full day, and when he awoke, it was to an empty house, filled with confusion and loneliness.

… dramatic pause … cue orchestra

And THUS! The great Delas bowed, blowing kisses to all her loyal reviewers, promising wealth and KakaIru beyond their wildest dreams, and LO! The heavens themselves wept to see her depart… and FOREASMUCH, Delas said something witty in her final moments, and the masses cheered and cried for more…


(this chapter had yet to be edited. therefore, it is rather short compared to the rest, and the quality is a bit lacking, in my opinion. expect to see this chapter redone soon or changed completely. P)