Chapter 6: Of Anger
Sasuke like he already expected, has grown stronger since their last encounter. Gone is the same boy he used to get into petty fights and squabbles over, replaced with that of a stranger who has no qualms about killing him.
Onyx eyes watch him with cold precision, awaiting his next move.
"I know that look in your eyes well Naruto. If you're going to try to kill me, now would probably be your best chance. At least if you think you can actually go through with it." Sasuke remarks at seeing foxlike features arise, those of the beast within him.
Same malicious crimson eyes, nails sharp and gleaming.
A bead of sweat forms on his brow, Naruto would be the hardest jinchuriki to capture.
"Surely we're going to make him shut up now, right?" Kurama questions.
As if to punctuate his response to him Naruto growls before dashing forward, dodging the barrage of lightning and fire Sasuke surrounds him with until he is right in range of his face. Before his chidori can pierce into his chest does he pin him back against the nearest tree, nails digging, choking until thin rivulets of red appear.
"Murdering you wouldn't solve the underlying problems of hate, revenge, and power that causes these wars to continue to happen. And it wouldn't stop people like Kabuto or Orochimaru from trying to revive you." Naruto mentions, voice caustic and biting as each word falls into the air.
"It's your only option Naruto." Kurama reiterates to him.
He reminds him of Hinata then, of what Sasuke will do to her, Yamato, and eventually Konoha if he doesn't put a stop to him here and now.
And its then he lifts up his opposite hand, rasengan forming...
"Hey, get back from him; now!" A's voice thunders at them across the way, launching a fist to the ground splitting the earth forcing Naruto's hold to loosen enough for Sasuke to slip back from him.
A cracks his knuckles, creating a new surge of electricity. "No way am I letting you get the finishing blow on him kid; not after all he's done."
'Taking on all of Kage like this wasn't in the original plan. Where are Suigetsu, Karin and Jugo?' Sasuke grits his teeth.
There shouldn't be any other Iron guards around to block their path, meaning its more outsiders that are holding them up.
Damn it, he should retreat though that isn't an option right now.
Because A's booming voice sends the rest of the Kage tumbling back out of the building, surrounding him making sure he has no easy exit out of this rising situation.
He looks to Naruto then, scoffing at the scarlet of his eyes, so enraged over a girl.
"You're this mad all because of the Hyuga?" Sasuke questions.
Of course he's seen Naruto get mad before in the past yes, from ridiculous things like people forgetting his name to more serious concerns like when Gaara attacked the village right after the chunin exams, but he's never seen him this much enraged for Sakura, Kakashi-sensei, or even for himself when he realized he truly was defecting from Konoha.
Naruto bares the sharpness of his teeth, heat of his fury seeming to melt the snow around them. "Hinata isn't just a Hyuga!"
His tone becomes deeper and gravelly and Sasuke can't be fully sure if this is Naruto, Kurama, or them both speaking to him regarding his connection to the woman.
Sasuke merely shakes his head, tired of this conversation, of Naruto constantly obstructing his path and getting in the way of his goals. "People like you and I don't get to have love Naruto, don't get to have happy endings."
And Naruto swears he hears a note of pity to his tone that love is a weakness he's apparently fallen into, fanning his rage.
"He's underestimating you; again." Kurama growls.
With his added chakra he can boost the power of Naruto's rasengan, truly burn away that smirk upon the Uchiha's face.
Sasuke turns away from him, none of this really mattering to him. Danzo should be here among the Kage, though he has yet to make an appearance. He scoffs as he takes note of each village's leader, eyes roaming for the man who knows what is coming for him when they truly meet...
It's too late for now to finish him off it seems, he was already warned of his presence and has escaped through an opposite exit.
Before he can say anything else A's electricity crackles between them like a wall, Sasuke activating his Susanoo wrapped up in a blanket of flames the color of ink just as his punch is about to connect.
"You're not getting away from here!" A hisses.
"Let the grown ups handle this!" Mei adds in, leaping down in front of Naruto unleashing a plume of lava from her lips. It connects with a series of vines, a white Zetsu clone melting to ash from the attack instead.
"You can't be the only one with reinforcements!" It laughs before completely crumpling away.
Mei clicks her tongue seeing the copy, putting up the hand seals for her next move. "Boil Release: Skilled Mist Technique!"
The forest billows now with smog, fire, and this new acidic mist with at some point Hinata too situating herself beside Naruto gesturing for him to step back quickly.
"Don't." Hinata states and Naruto feels his fury seeping out of him. Now isn't the time to stop Sasuke from escaping when he'll only injure himself in all these ensuing attacks, there will be other chances to confront him...
There is no use in trying to talk him down anymore.
'People like you and I don't get to have love Naruto, don't get to have happy endings.' Naruto frowns, he may not entirely understand the intricacies of love, but that isn't true. From what he's seen and been told of in stories is that love is what drives people, what strengthens them in their darkest moments.
At least he doesn't entirely think love is making him weak or isn't something he deserves when he looks at Hinata.
"There's another figure getting near Sasuke." Hinata notes quietly, shoulders tensing and Naruto forces himself to focus on all that is still happening around him.
Even with the air now coated in streams of black and gray do they see the same masked man from the night before approaching Sasuke now, the same man who has 'taught' Sasuke all there is to know about the world further pushing him into hatred.
He sees their staring before his attention returns to Sasuke, teleporting him right before Onoki can imprison him.
"If you think I'm going to talk, you're wrong!" Karin spits, Sakura deftly avoiding her saliva.
'I hope Kakashi-sensei is having better luck than me.' Sakura internally groans.
Both her and her partner are refusing to talk, not that she expected them to. Her fiery red hair looking at it closer now reminds her of the Uzumaki clan at least what she can recall from the history books, in another time and place it could be useful for them to learn from each other various healing techniques and chakra prowess.
However, such a thing is a long ways away if even ever going to happen based on her current hostility...
Kakashi-sensei is handling she believes his name is Suigetsu's interrogation, at least he's keeping still for him though that is perhaps only because most shinobi know of Kakashi's reputation and skill from past battles and wars.
So, the hardest part of capturing them has been taken care of at least. On some level she's sure Karin knew they were following them, even glancing right in her and Kakashi-sensei's direction before they ambushed them.
Her vibrant scarlet hair sways rapidly around her face at each movement she makes in attempting to get out of her binds, teeth clenching as a sheen of sweat forms on her brow from the futile effort.
And it's in the midst of her flailing does Sakura take note of her skin, of the bite marks littering her arms to her legs...
"What happened to you?" She questions before she can get a better look at each wound. Those aren't the teeth marks of an animal, no they come from a human.
"None of your fucking business!" Karin hisses in return brushing her hand off as best she can and Sakura restrains back a scowl at her stubbornness; they were getting nowhere. Showing any signs of anger or upset is just going to make her shut down even further, what she needs to get out of her right now is information. Fast.
'I'll try a different tactic, maybe that will get her to open up.' Sakura decides.
She recoils from her touch again as she reaches her hand out, pausing at realizing Sakura isn't moving to strike her, but heal her. In spite of her current situation, Sakura can see her muscles relax just slightly at her pain being eased as bruises and scratches of old and new fade just a bit.
'Good, she let her guard down for just a second, that's all I needed.' Sakura knows.
It's enough for her to draw out her syringe from her sleeve quickly, to pinprick her skin between spots of healing her and Karin not feel the sting of the injection...
"You work with Sasuke, correct? I am...or well I used to be one of his teammates. Back in Konoha that is." Sakura begins simply, watching her facial expression for any recognition or changes.
As she expects, just saying Sasuke's name out loud makes her eyes soften before they harden once more. Karin lifts her face to look at her properly, cruel smirk etching her lips.
"Hmm, so you love him too, huh? Well I can tell you this he isn't going to go back Konoha unless it's as a corpse at this point." She laughs humorlessly.
The sting lands as much as Sakura hates it, it lands and burrows into her. But her selfish feelings, her selfish heartache aren't important right now.
She balls up her fists until they're nearly white before quickly unclenching them, not rising to her bait. "You're a sensory type, I deduced that much from watching your pattern of movement throughout the forest. In that case, you can sense other people's chakra. You must see that Sasuke's chakra signature is getting darker and colder with each passing day, right?"
Karin shrugs or at least attempts to, scoffing at the idea. "It's fine if he's becoming more and more darker and twisted, as long as I can be of use to him! Anyways, you wouldn't understand him when you haven't seen him properly in years."
Sakura doesn't immediately respond, green boring into red. A knot breaks and snaps within her stomach at a bitter realization.
'Is this me?'
After all, they both have feelings for Sasuke and at one point said feelings clouded her judgement, made her nearly be okay with this person Sasuke is currently becoming if it meant she could be by his side...
And if she had reached that point she wouldn't have cared who she hurt be it family or friends, that's how far gone she would be.
"You're right; I don't understand. Because the Sasuke you know and the Sasuke I know are like night and day. If it takes beating sense into him to return him back to who he once was then so be it." Sakura responds.
It might even feel good to actually punch Sasuke, to release some of this pent up tension and pain she's been carrying around like weights.
Karin snorts, brows furrowing. Though she didn't look it, she could sense the strength pouring of off Sakura, that wouldn't be enough to take on Sasuke however in a one-on-one fight.
Before either of them can say anymore though a stream of smoke rockets up into the air staining the sky in a reddish-gray, the smell of fire follows and she catches Kakashi-sensei's eye.
The Kage Summit has been interrupted.
"Shit, we're too late; we may have already missed Sasuke!" Karin berates herself, cursing how much things have gone wrong in such a short amount of time.
She'd have to make it up to Sasuke as soon as they managed to rendezvous, as soon as maybe Jugo or some other type of interruption/interference could get her out of these stupid ties.
Karin's eyes narrow, focusing in on the chakra signatures a few meters ahead before her gaze abruptly falls back to Sakura.
"You said Sasuke is gaining a more unstable, sinister chakra, correct? Though I can say the same for the shinobi on your side as well it seems, I sense a very malicious chakra up ahead." She huffs.
Sakura swallows, following the direction of her stare.
'That can only mean Naruto.' She concludes.
Her attention is twisted from the scene though at the sound of new footsteps approaching, shadow of a figure about to loom right over them making Sakura leap back into the trees before a fist can slam into the back of her head. The man lifts up Karin easily right over his shoulders now that she is out of the way, muttering wildly about his missed kill of her.
"About freaking time Jugo!" Karin hisses before they too are shrouded in the smog.
"How do you feel now?" Hinata asks, wishing this tent was just slightly bigger for them to properly share.
'I didn't want either of us to be cold, but I didn't know either we would be sleeping this close again.' Hinata squirms.
Nightfall approaches, moon half visible through remnants of haze and branches. The disaster of the Kage Summit is now hours behind them, though the uneasiness remains. All of the Kage are set to return back to their respective villages to discuss what occurred and create next steps. Sasuke once again managed to run off, allied with the Akatsuki and she shuts her eyes trying to get his coldness, the emptiness of his stare out her thoughts.
'War is inevitable now.' The very thought elicits a shiver.
"I'm fine." Naruto states quickly to respond to her question.
He rolls over to look at her properly and she's invaded with the scent of pine, musk, and a spicy ramen he must've ate hours ago that together is all so utterly Naruto that it makes her face burn at his closeness, at his rubbing away of her goosebumps. Cobalt orbs become dark and thoughtful reminding her of the ocean in a storm. Looking into his eyes she's sure his mind is all over the place, weighed down deep with all he's just learned and saw today.
"You know, Gaara said killing Sasuke would be best if it will create peace. I suppose he's right though I didn't really want to hear it from him." Naruto mutters, recalling how he harshly pushed Gaara's hand off his shoulder at being told what he should do.
She had talked with Gaara too, gotten his perspective on the way he saw this situation.
"Naruto is the type of person to go with option 2, then option 3 if option 2 doesn't work and so on and so forth." Hinata explains watching Naruto walk off to think alone for a few minutes.
Gaara looks back at her before nodding his understanding. "I know this isn't an easy topic for Naruto to digest, however as he too wants to be a leader for your village one day tough decisions like this will have to be made." He warns.
He pats at her shoulder, gesturing in his direction. "I spoke to him in terms as his friend, though you're more to him than just that I sense. He should listen to you better than me."
Pink dusts her cheeks, though she nods promising she will discuss the topic and comfort Naruto as best she can at a later point.
"Oh, before you go Gaara I wanted to ask, what do you know about one of the bodyguards; the man named Ao?" Hinata questions.
Gaara's brows furrow, clearly a strange topic to suddenly switch over to. "Not much, I know he's a renowned shinobi from Kiri having once been a part of their Anbu team. I assume you're curious about his body modification, I can have some researchers look into it."
Hinata smiles a bit then, nodding. "Thank you, there's no need to rush. Anything you may find helps."
The question burns at her of his byakugan eye, planning to learn everything she can about the man. Who did he steal it from?
And mainly can she get retribution for this fallen clan member.
Gaara too it seems sees something between her and Naruto she herself has yet to fully notice whenever Naruto is near her.
"It's not impossible to get Sasuke to see the error of his ways I suppose. Gaara used to be filled with such hatred and bloodlust too after all, though Sasuke's situation is entirely different..." Hinata reminds him, stopping herself.
"If I give up on Sasuke-" Naruto starts only for Hinata to fix him with a glare.
"Sasuke already gave up on you Naruto, he only sees you as a burden now. He will kill you and everyone else in the village we know and love all for the sake of power and revenge." She cuts him off.
"It's easy for you to say that since you didn't know Sasuke that well!" Naruto answers back after a moment, tone rising to match her vitriol.
That just fuels her on.
"Neither do you Naruto! How well do you know him if he's okay with trying to murder people he used to call his friends and teammates?" Hinata argues, unable to hide this rage she's bottled. She softens seeing Naruto's stricken look, that her words are like daggers picking and digging at truths he wants to keep buried.
The difference between Gaara and Sasuke is that Gaara was willing to change after a good beatdown where Sasuke after multiple skirmishes does not.
"Do you think Sasuke can be saved Hinata? I want to know what you think." Naruto asks suddenly, watching her carefully making her heart lurch.
'Honestly, no. Not at this point.' Hinata thinks, pursing her lips. Is there a polite way to say that?
"...He keeps hurting you Naruto and I...I've never really payed him any attention. His personality always seemed so haughty and cold; bitter and power-hungry especially after seeing your own growth match to his." Hinata remarks instead.
Naruto looks at her for a long moment and she feels the beginnings of a blush coming when he leans close to whisper in her ear.
"That didn't answer my question, you know!" The teasing lilt to it making her breathe out slowly and hopefully cool this tension between them.
There's an unmistakable trace of frustration though lingering in his voice, at her avoidance of a proper answer faintly simmering beneath them knowing that this is going to be something they don't fully agree on just yet or even ever.
Naruto mutters out a soft goodnight immediately after and Hinata pauses for moment, arguing with herself on what to do next before snuggling herself into his chest. He stiffens for a nervously long minute at her action and briefly Hinata wonders if he's going to push her away before Naruto relaxes and sighs, loosely wrapping an arm around her.
Her answer wasn't the response he wanted.
But she wasn't about to lie to Naruto, especially not over this matter.
In the morning the conversation is completely dropped, Yamato deciding they need to as well report back into Konoha before she and Naruto can decide where and what they want to do next.
"I'm sure Kakashi and Sakura aren't too far from here. They can give us an update on what they've learned as well." Yamato considers.
"Kakashi-sensei and Sakura? Why would they be out here?" Naruto questions. They should both be back in Konoha helping with the repairs and at the hospital respectively, unless there is something they know that needed to be immediately reported to them.
Yamato doesn't immediately answer, with Naruto just about anything he says can be twisted into a negative meaning.
"I believe they came out to most likely gather their own information in finding out what Sasuke's been up to and who he's been associating with, they don't want you to be the only one burdened with this though they knew you probably wouldn't have agreed to their ideas." Hinata pipes in, Yamato sending her a thankful look.
Naruto arches a brow, said 'ideas' must be referring to killing Sasuke. Though Kakashi-sensei and definitely not Sakura would want to do that unless it was a last resort...
"Alright, let's meet up with them then." Naruto decides after a moment, twisting himself in the direction Yamato determines of their location until Hinata reaches for his arm regaining his attention.
"Even...Even though we don't agree exactly on how Sasuke should be handled it doesn't change my feelings for you!" Hinata explains in a rush, words nearly jumbling together. Her cheeks start heating fast at the declaration, at Yamato-sensei having to witness this as well (However, his expression doesn't say one way or another if this is awkward for him or not).
Maybe there is no reason for her to even need to say this, but she just wants Naruto to be reminded after how chaotic the summit became.
Naruto blinks, face reddening just slightly before he scratches at his cheek averting his eyes. Hinata curls at her toes, startled to see this shyness that is the complete opposite of his usual bravado and confidence.
"I know, I didn't think it did." He mentions quietly peering back at her after he finds his voice, growing smile infectious.
He lightly taps their foreheads together, breathing in slowly before his expression becomes serious and dark once more.
"After seeing what Sasuke did to you I know killing him can't be off the table." He murmurs.
"I'm sorry, I let her get away." Sakura apologizes, fist slamming into the remnants of an ashen tree. It crumples into the snow, turning it a murky grayish-black.
Kakashi shakes his head, ensuring they are out of this clearing first, out of any more potential enemies coming in. While the Land of Iron is typically neutral territory, the Akatsuki and their associates keep pouring more and more into these areas.
"It isn't your fault, their 3rd team member was on a killing rampage and you had to get out of the way while Sugietsu melted off." He states again.
'Those body modifications he had, those are the work of Orochimaru I'm sure. We may not have gathered much, but it seems those 3 are all working together and at least know Sasuke in some form or fashion.' Kakashi determines.
The main event of the summit is long over now, one Iron officer that they managed to get to talk to them explaining the meeting had barely kicked off before being interrupted.
"We should head back to Konoha now, at least to regroup and maybe see if Naruto, Hinata, and Yamato-sensei are already heading back." Sakura mentions after a moment.
"No need, seems they're coming to us first." Kakashi replies at seeing blond hair through the thicket of trees and bush. It's easy to misinterpret Naruto's bright grin as everything is fine, but it's a mask he's seen him use before...
Hell, it's a tactic he's used himself even.
"So you guys wanted to crash the summit meeting as well, huh?!" He jokes when they are close enough.
Sakura straightens up beside him, jade orbs curious and anxious to hear what news they have. Hinata beside him is quiet, pearl orbs somber and it becomes immediately clear they encountered Sasuke.
"Did...Did he try to ki-harm you guys?" Sakura manages, not bringing herself to say the alternative.
The smile falls from Naruto's face, there is no use in lying so he merely nods.
Yamato pipes up at the ensuing silence, gesturing in the direction of East. "He is going after Danzo now and based on his actions, he can't be trusted no matter his past ties to Konoha. I know Lady Tsunade is still recovering, but preparations need to be made in the village for war."
They spend the rest of the afternoon making progress back towards Konoha until the last remnants of the sun is gone, setting up makeshift camp in the first signs of grassy plains they've all seen in days. The air is finally less frigid and biting, he used to hate the heat of the summers in Konoha but he'll take it any day over the near constant chill of the mountains in Iron.
In spite of his body's urge to rest his mind is alert, staring into the moonlit fields for any activity.
"You know, I can take over night watch for an hour or two." Yamato suggests sometime around midnight, but Kakashi waves off the gesture.
His thoughts keep spiraling back to this masked man Naruto and Hinata mentioned, this man who refers to himself as Madara when the real Madara should be long dead by now...
'Why is he using his name? And besides wearing a mask to hide his identity, does he have a distinguishing feature on his face that would give away his identity?' The questions keep piling up.
The ruffle of bushes gets both Kakashi and Yamato's attention to back below, not the only ones apparently awake.
"How have things been between you two?" Sakura asks simply to end this day on a lighter note, mischief dancing in her eyes seeing alarm and embarrassment flash across Naruto's face. Ino was going to ask as well once they were back in the village, heck probably all of their friends would be curious to know the nature of their relationship at this point in time. Whatever they called it was clearly skimming the lines between friends into something more.
"...Hinata is sleeping you know!" Naruto replies instead, motioning at her wildly to hush when this makes her erupt in laughter.
'Well, at least he knows what she meant by that question.' Kakashi muses, that was some progress.
"I'm not sleeping, at least not anymore." Hinata clarifies, sitting up while avoiding Naruto's stare.
And Sakura sighs, both of them now going into silent mode over the topic. "Fine, you guys have it your way; for now."
Hinata stretches, they never did ask what she and Kakashi-sensei gathered. "Did you learn anything about Sasuke's associates?"
At this Sakura perks up again, nodding as she pulls out a small glass vial from her bag.
"As a matter of fact, I did. We should learn something hopefully in the next day or so from that one woman on his team." She remarks.
'I know it was a quick decision, but if I'm correct this will shake her trust in Sasuke.' Sakura notes to herself. Lady Tsunade wouldn't like her taking a risk like this with so many complicated variables of what could and may just truly go wrong with the plan once Karin and her teammates find out what she's done, but in spite of that the pros outweighed the cons.
This was a bet worth taking, one were the rewards were sure to be high.
Naruto scrunches his nose, perplexed. "How will you know so soon?"
Sakura rolls the vial between her fingers, letting the container shimmer in the moonlight revealing it's emptiness to him and Hinata. Kakashi shifts forward to better hear her response too, these extra steps she put into place that she didn't even reveal to him.
A bitter smile spreads across Sakura's lips.
"Because I poisoned her."
High emotions all over the place, hopefully everyone felt in-character enough. Let me know your thoughts as always!
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