Chapter 36: Reunions and Revelations
Mikoto knelt in front of me.
Seeing her after so long, something welled up in my chest, an unnamed, overwhelming emotion.
"Kiyo-chan," she said, reaching out for me, surrounded by light. "You're alright now."
This was it.
"...Kaa-chan–" I began, reaching out for her too.
After all this time I was finally…
But before I could touch her, something pulled me back. She vanished along with the world of light.
I gasped, blinking and breathing in dust and ash. There was debris scattered around my feet and the smell of blood in the air. I reached up to clutch at the hole in my chest, but it was gone as if it had never existed at all.
I thought back, struggling to understand. After waking, I'd immediately Hiraishined to the mark I'd placed on Itachi's hand three years ago. I'd barely had time to register the situation. Sasuke's eyes were Sharingan red and burning with hatred. Itachi was hunched over and bleeding, his eyes black and his posture inviting Sasuke's chidori.
I'd had only a split moment to decide: move and allow Itachi to be killed or…
It hadn't hurt when Sasuke's hand pierced my chest. Our eyes met for one brief moment, his widening with horror and understanding before mine went dark.
I looked back toward Itachi, who had raised his left hand to cover his eye. Only when he lowered it did he reveal the milky whiteness beneath.
He'd sacrificed his left eye to save me. To bring me back.
"Onii-chan…" I said.
But before I could say more, Itachi pitched forward, injured and the last of his chakra spent to revive me. I caught him before he hit the ground, softening his fall. Behind me, Sasuke took a step forward.
"Nii-chan!" I said urgently, shielding Itachi as well as I could. But that turned out to be unnecessary as Sasuke stood staring at me with his too-wide Sharingan red eyes….No wait. They weren't just red. They were red and black, in an intricate pattern of the Mangekyo Sharingan.
Sasuke took another halting step forward, still staring at me.
"You were dead…" he said, his voice raspy. He reached out a hand. "I killed you…"
"I'm okay!" I said. I had to stop him. "Onii-chan saved me. Nii-chan, I have to tell you—"
But before I could explain anything, Sasuke too fell forward, his own chakra exhaustion finally catching up to him. I barely managed to break his fall. I knelt, holding Sasuke's head as the sky opened up, and it began to rain.
I sat there for a long moment simply existing.
But no matter what I felt right now, we couldn't stay. There were things I needed to do.
First things first. I had to make sure that they would both survive. I ran a quick diagnostic jutsu over Itachi because he seemed the worse off between the two. He had several deep lacerations, multiple stab wounds, and second degree burns on his arms. Nothing serious. I cycled healing chakra through him, quickly sealing the wounds and reverting the burned skin. There was nothing I could do for his blinded eye, however. My heart clenched at the thought of what my actions had cost him, but I couldn't dwell on it now. I'd have to ask for forgiveness later.
Next was Sasuke who was, as expected, in better condition. He had a few minor burns as well as some small scrapes, but it was only the work of a few minutes to get him back to full health. Now all they needed was rest and some shelter from the rain. I weighed my options. Going back to Konoha with a chakra-exhausted Itachi was a bad idea. Ame was equally terrible because of Sasuke. Unfortunately, I had precious few alternatives.
"So, Kiyo-chan, you really did manage to save him."
I was on my feet in an instant. I hadn't felt his arrival, but there he was standing over Sasuke.
"Now to—," he began with a glint of red from the eye of his mask.
But before he could move, my right eye burned as Itachi's chakra mixed with mine, solidifying into a technique. My vision went red as I clamped a hand over my eye. But it was too late. The pain and chakra faded, leaving behind a dull weight.
What was that?
What command had Itachi hidden in Shisui's eye?
"Don't be frightened," said Obito, spreading his arms as though to show his harmless intentions. As if Obito needed a weapon to be dangerous. "I'm here to talk." Obito looked down at Sasuke in an unspoken threat. "And you will listen."
This wasn't good. Itachi and Sasuke were completely helpless. Obito didn't want Sasuke dead. I knew this. The same wasn't necessarily true for Itachi, though. So if I wanted to protect him, I'd have to make Obito back down. That was easier said than done. Kamui wasn't something that could be dealt with easily. But the Fourth Hokage had managed to get the better of Obito with the Hiraishin. Of course that was a much younger and far less experienced Obito. He would obviously be wise to that trick.
I had to think of something else.
"W-what do you want?" I asked, stalling for time.
My only chance was to bind him with my chakra chains. Then he wouldn't be able to use Kamui at all. Only then would he be vulnerable. Of course, as soon as I formed the chains, he'd turn intangible, and then they'd be useless. I had to forge the chains and attack without his notice.
Well, the Sharingan could see chakra, but it didn't have the ability to see through things at the same level as a Byakugan. I could use that.
"My dream has always been to bring true peace to this world," said Obito, taking a step forward. "And for that, I require your brother."
He nodded toward Sasuke, still unconscious.
"He won't help you," I said with confidence I didn't feel. Sasuke's anger was his weakness. It made him easy to manipulate and control.
"I think he can be persuaded with the right motivation," said Obito with a meaningful look at me.
I fell into a taijutsu stance and then brought chakra to my feet, shaping the chakra chains from my soles and pushing them into the cracked ground so that they could snake slowly toward Obito's position without his notice.
"I won't help you either," I said.
"I think you will," said Obito. "Because you are correct. Without proper incentive, your brothers will not join me willingly. And if you are unwilling to provide that incentive, they become dangerous liabilities." A long spike of wood descended from his sleeve, stopping just above Sasuke's throat. "Do you understand?"
How could I not?
Right now Itachi and Sasuke were his biggest potential assets and threats. If he could use me to control them, then they became unrivaled allies. If he couldn't…well, Itachi was practically a force of nature, and Sasuke's potential went far beyond that.
Of course Obito wanted them. And that was exactly why I couldn't allow him to have them.
My chains burst from the cracks in the stone, wrapping around Obito's legs and…slipping straight through him.
I'd lost the element of surprise if I'd ever had it at all. Instead of trying fruitlessly to ensnare Obito, my chains continued past him, encircling Sasuke to form a barrier shield. Obito regarded the new obstacle with curiosity, so I ran lightning through my chains as well, causing Obito to leap back. I did the same for Itachi, guarding both of my brothers from any potential attack. Of course protecting them also served to pin me down since attempting the Hiraishin would break any connection I had to the chains. If I tried to move anywhere, I'd have to take them with me.
Should I use the Hiraishin to escape with my brothers? Maybe if I could get to Naruto and explain the situation…?
No. With Obito's plans for Sasuke, he would absolutely pursue me to get to him. Running to Naruto would only serve to drag him into danger too. Besides, my strongest attack was one that worked best when I didn't have to worry about collateral damage.
The only problem was getting it to land.
"Such a disobedient child," said Obito. "Perhaps I've been too lenient with you."
I raised my hands to form a clone seal, and five shadow clones popped into existence beside me. Two went to stand beside Itachi and Sasuke, one went to gather some of the fallen kunai scattered around the ruins, and the last two blitzed forward in a standard pincer attack. The best strategy against Kamui was to strike when he went for a counter-attack, so I'd have to aim for that.
The first shadow clone attacked with basic taijutsu, not bothering to waste chakra on something that would never land. As expected, the clone passed right through Obito, who turned and burst the clone with a single strike. The other clone was suddenly on top of him, having used a mix of body-flicker and lightning to enhance its speed to incredible levels, but it too missed Obito by a fraction of a second, and Obito managed to burst it after it passed through him as well.
Though the clones hadn't managed to strike him directly, they had covertly planted various Hiraishin formulas on the rubble around his feet.
Just in time for the third shadow clone to return with a barrage of freshly formula-marked kunai and shuriken. They passed right through Obito, naturally, but they also filled in the gaps left by the first two clones, cutting off any potential escape routes. Finally, the clone produced a net of chains woven with barrier seals, surrounding Obito but not touching him, caging him in. Obito considered the chains and barriers.
"Do you really think that this is enough to stop me?" he asked, unconcerned.
I waited, tense. I just needed him to–there!
The air around Obito's eye swirled as he began to teleport, but my clones were faster. The two that were standing over Sasuke and Itachi used the Hiraishin to leap to two of the marks within the barrier, right on top of Obito where they caught him in a web of chakra chains, cutting off his jutsu and forcing him back into this reality.
I waited a beat, waited for Obito to break free. But he…didn't? He simply stood there, watching me and not struggling. But why?
"Pein certainly has been busy with you, hasn't he?" Obito asked, his tone mild. "When did you realize that I must become tangible to teleport?"
What was he doing? Was he stalling? For what?
"I won't let you hurt my brothers," I said.
"Then you'll have to kill me," he said. "That is the only way to make me stop. But can you do it? Do you have the resolve to bring about the world of peace that you desire?"
My clones tightened their grip on the chains binding Obito. As he was now, if I channeled wind and lightning chakra through them, he would certainly be killed.
But could I…do that?
"You hold back. Tell me, have you ever fought with the intent to kill?"
Nagato had tried to warn me. This was the purpose of my training. With just a little bit of chakra, I could prevent the war. I could save so many lives. If he was gone, he wouldn't be able to drag Sasuke into darkness. He wouldn't be able to hurt Itachi.
All I had to do was…kill him.
That was all.
What was one life in exchange for so many others?
He wasn't innocent.
My hands shook. Was this what it meant to be a ninja? To kill for the greater good…even when your opponent wasn't fighting back? Even when you knew that there might be a better way?
Was this how Itachi felt that night?
"I-I…do have the resolve," I said. "But not to kill you. Instead, I still want to seek peace and understanding."
What was I doing? What was I even hoping to accomplish? Obito had sacrificed everything for his dream. He had done so much. He had hurt so many people. All to escape his own personal hell. All for the promise Madara had made that one day his suffering would end and he could be happy again. What promises could I make? I had nothing to offer but cold, immutable reality.
But still, I had to try. If Naruto could reach him, then maybe I could too. If there was even a small chance, then maybe…
"I know that as hard as it is for me, I am not the only one who has felt the pain of loss," I said, my voice growing a little steadier. "You've lost someone too, haven't you…Obito?"
Obito, whose posture had been relaxed and attentive, stiffened visibly.
"…What did you call me?" he asked.
How long had it been since he'd used that name?
"Obito," I said. "That's your name, isn't it? It was hard to tell at first. Your chakra is so different now. But no matter how much you've changed, you're still you. And I've felt your chakra before…in Kakashi-sensei's left eye."
Obito's posture eased, though there was still a tension that hadn't been there before.
"You can call me by that name if you want," he said. "But it means nothing to me. I cast it aside a long time ago when I became Uchiha Madara. As for my pain, that too means nothing. I have no interest in this world. It does not matter to me at all. I will create a new world, one unlike this hell."
"But you're not Madara," I said. "You're Obito. You are a ninja of Konoha. You are Kakashi-sensei's friend, the one he still mourns every single day. I know that you're hurt because of this world we live in. I hurt too. But hurting others isn't going to make things better. You can still stop what you're doing. You can come home and return to the people who still care about you. Please stop this…Obito."
"I told you, that name means nothing to me," he said, sounding almost gentle. "There is nothing for me in Konoha or anywhere else in this forsaken world. There is only my ambition. And it doesn't matter if you have the resolve to make your world a reality. Because I do."
A searing pain lanced through my chest, and I choked as blood spilled from my mouth. I looked down to see a spike of wood protruding from my right lung. Something warm was against my back. I summoned a cloak of lightning, but it fizzled out before it could throw off whatever was behind me. Worse, I felt it take control of my chakra from within. My clones dispelled and my chakra chains vanished. I tried to thrash away from its grip, but the warmth spread down my arms and legs, binding me. With great effort, I managed to turn my head and look over my shoulder.
"There is no need to be quite so rough," said Obito, the smallest of rebukes.
"Her Hashirama cells will be enough to heal her," said Black Zetsu, withdrawing the wooden spike from my chest. "Unless you want me to finish her off instead?"
"No, I have something else in mind," said Obito as he suddenly appeared before me, reaching out. There was a moment of disorientation, and suddenly we were back in the Kamui dimension, specifically, back to the bower where I'd spent several months during my recovery.
"You cannot leave this place without me, and you do not have the resolve to kill me," said Obito. "So you will remain here until I no longer have a use for you. If you do as you are told, you will not be harmed."
He turned away as if to leave, but then he paused.
"Oh, and one more thing."
I could only watch wide-eyed as he jabbed two chakra-coated fingers into my chest, sliding between the third and fourth ribs. I gasped as a seal wrapped around my heart. Obito pulled his hand back and Black Zetsu, likewise, withdrew. I fell to my knees, already healing the puncture wounds in my chest.
"This cursed seal will prevent you from ending your own life," said Obito. "Because you cannot be trusted to protect it yourself. It will also seal Shisui's Sharingan to keep you out of trouble. I would take it for myself, but it seems that Itachi saw fit to bind it to your eighth chakra gate. Removing it would end your life, and your death would destroy it. How unfortunate. Anyway, rest now. I will return after I've resolved things with your brothers."
And then Obito took Black Zetsu and vanished in a swirl of displaced space, leaving me alone in the Kamui dimension.
I was on my feet as soon as I felt Obito's swirl of chakra.
"Nii-chan!" I shouted, sprinting forward and throwing my arms around him. "Are you okay? Did he hurt you?"
Not waiting for an answer, I ran a diagnostic jutsu and cycled healing chakra through his body. He was unhurt, though still exhausted, but that didn't give me as much pause as the feel of his chakra.
It was darker than before, darker than Orochimaru's curse mark.
"…Kiyo-chan," he said. His voice was strange, distant and apathetic. Only then did I notice that his arms were hanging loosely at his side. He wasn't returning my embrace. "I have some questions for you."
A chill ran through my blood. I hugged him tighter and pressed my face into his stomach, but he felt as hard and unyielding as stone. I'd always known this day was coming. I had to answer for everything I'd done, and everything I'd failed to do. I released him slowly and took two steps back so that I could face him without craning my neck. He'd gotten so tall.
"Okay," I said. "But, Nii-chan, please tell me if Onii-chan is alright…"
The fact that Sasuke was here and Itachi wasn't was…alarming.
"'Onii-chan'?" Sasuke echoed, his voice growing cold. "So it's all true then? Everything Obito said about our clan?"
Wait, 'Obito'? So Obito had revealed his true identity. Well, he probably had to since I knew it and I would obviously tell my brothers about him if given the chance. It wasn't like he was any less powerful just because he wasn't the real Madara. It was a guise he used to gain respect, but with me under his control, he didn't need the ruse anymore.
"I-I don't know exactly what he told you," I said. "But you can't do what he says. He wants to use you to destroy Konoha."
I was acutely aware of how weak that sounded, but I didn't have much to work with.
"I'll decide what to do once I've heard what you have to say," said Sasuke. "I want to hear the story, the full story, from you. Tell me everything you know about the massacre."
"I don't know everything," I hedged. "But…I was able to piece a few things together. When we were young, the adults were unhappy and whispered about…things they didn't want us kids to hear. I heard people from the village calling our family traitors. It made me think that there was something wrong between the clan and the village. Tou-chan also talked about a…situation between the clan and the village elders. He wanted Onii-chan to be the bridge that connected the clan to the village. And as time went on, it just seemed to get worse. Everyone was always so nervous and…angry."
I paused, because when I put it like that, it really was nothing at all.
"I confronted Onii-chan and Shisui-nii-san about it the day before he died…was murdered," I corrected. "They told me…that everything would be okay."
I swallowed thickly. After all this time, it shouldn't hurt quite so much. My eyes stung.
"But Shisui-nii-san was killed," I said. "And then Onii-chan…" I stopped again. I couldn't say it. I didn't want to say it. And it wasn't like Sasuke didn't already know. "That night, I spoke to him. I told him that I knew that the clan was planning something against the village, and I knew that he had to stop them. He put me under Tsukuyomi and told me that it was better this way. He let me live out a perfect, happy life. I spent eighty years in that dream-world. Then I woke up in the hospital, and the Hokage came to see me."
"He asked me questions," I said. "He asked me if I knew why Onii-chan had killed our family. I thought that if I told him the truth…he would kill me. And if you knew the truth, he'd kill you too. I'm sorry, Nii-chan. All this time, I wanted to tell you."
Sasuke was silent for a long minute.
"…That day when the Hokage came to the shrine," he said, frowning in thought. "You were so angry."
"I didn't want him anywhere near our family," I said. "Or you."
"Hn," said Sasuke. "And when Itachi came for Naruto and put you under Tsukuyomi again?"
"We talked," I said. "I told him about everything that had happened to us including Orochimaru and your curse mark. I thought he might know how to help you."
Sasuke reached up to touch his neck.
I squinted at him, at the bare spot on his shoulder.
"Your curse mark…" I said.
"He removed it," said Sasuke.
"Really?" I asked. Oh, right. The Totsuka blade. Itachi must have gotten it at some point and hadn't mentioned it to me. He really did keep a frustrating number of secrets. "It's gone? It's not hurting you anymore?"
"Hn," said Sasuke, lowering his hand. I took that as a yes. "And then he brought you to the Akatsuki."
It wasn't a question, but Sasuke was giving me a searching look.
"He wanted to protect me," I said. "And I wanted to heal him. He was sick. Dying. But I didn't know what he was planning until after he took me."
"Did they hurt you?" Sasuke asked, glancing down at my tattered, bloody clothes. I looked particularly awful since I didn't even have my Akatsuki cloak to conceal the worst of it. Itachi had probably taken it before leaving me behind so that Sasuke wouldn't suspect that I was working with them.
"Onii-chan made a deal with them," I said. "As long as I did what they wanted, they never hurt me. But…um, on the day Onii-chan came to take me away, Jiraiya infiltrated the village and I…helped him escape. I was hurt, but only because I got in the way. They let me heal myself afterwards even though I betrayed them."
Pein had commanded it, in fact.
"…Hn," said Sasuke as he clenched his fists.
"I'm sorry," I said, as if that made anything better. I looked down at the floor, unable to meet his gaze.
Sasuke was silent for a long minute before he let out a slow breath.
"It's fine," he said. "Back then we were weak. There was nothing either of us could have done against the village, and you were only trying to keep us alive. If I was in your position, I would have done the same thing."
His words should have been reassuring.
Should have been.
But the way he spoke... He might have acknowledged my reasons, but that did nothing to erase his fury. And why should it? His lifelong ambitions were born from a lie. And now he was faced with the reality that Itachi was still his beloved older brother, and I had known it all along. All that he'd sacrificed. All that he'd suffered. All of it was for a lie.
"…I'm sorry," I whispered.
'Sorry' wasn't good enough.
'Sorry' didn't change anything.
The silence stretched between us. Then Sasuke sighed, and there was a rustle of fabric.
"Come here, Kiyo-chan," he said, his voice a little softer but not by much.
I glanced up and blinked in surprise. In his hand he held something blue.
"Is that my ribbon?" I asked.
But no. Of course not. My ribbon was old and torn and had probably been relegated to a garbage pile in Ame by now. This ribbon was bright and new. Sasuke gestured for me to approach, and I did, taking two tentative steps forward. He turned me around and ran his fingers through my hair, gently teasing out the knots before tying the ribbon into place.
"I meant to give this to you back then to apologize," he said. Apologize? For what? Oh, that's right. We'd been fighting about my future on Team 7. It seemed so long ago. Unimportant, too, after everything that had happened. "The night of the massacre, I lost everything. Everything. For a little while, I even thought that I'd lost you too." Sasuke knelt down and pulled me into a hug, wrapping his arms around me for the first time in over three years. "I swore that I would never lose you again. I will do anything to keep you safe. I've only ever wanted to protect you. And that will never change."
He sounded so completely self-assured and resolute in this simple fact.
"B-but I lied to you for all those years," I said, sniffling. "You should h-hate me for what I did."
It was what I deserved.
"I can't," he said simply. "It's not you that I hate. It's Konoha. And I will destroy it for the sake of my revenge."
Sasuke's arms tightened around me, his grip becoming almost painful. When I looked up, his eyes were too wide, giving him an alarmingly unhinged expression.
"But Konoha is our home, and all our friends are there," I said. "Naruto and Kakashi-sensei and…"
I trailed off. Sasuke had never really managed to bond with anyone else in Konoha. He'd barely managed a hesitant teacher-student relationship with Kakashi. Even his connection with Naruto felt weaker than it should have been.
"I severed those bonds a long time ago," said Sasuke. "They are nothing to me."
"What?" I asked. "How can you say that? And what about Karin and Haku? They're vassals of the Uchiha clan."
Sure, he hadn't known them for long, but their oath to our family had to count for something.
"Karin and Haku followed me when I defected from the village," said Sasuke. "They've been with me ever since and have no more ties to Konoha than I do."
Wait. Karin and Haku went to Hidden Sound?
"Are they alright?" I asked.
Orochimaru had favored Sasuke because Sasuke was meant to be his vessel. Karin and Haku would have had no such protection. And I'd just…left them there, left them to deal with whatever horrors Orochimaru chose to inflict on them.
"They're fine," he said, as if living under Orochimaru was nothing. "Anyway, it doesn't matter. I will have my revenge."
"Nii-chan, the path you're walking down right now will only lead to more darkness and more pain," I said. "Vengeance isn't going to solve anything. It will only hurt you more."
"My ambitions lie only in darkness," said Sasuke. "The hatred I feel is more than you can imagine. And even if I could somehow give it up, what then? What is there for me beyond the darkness?"
"You have people who love you," I said. "That is what lies beyond the darkness."
That, at least, made Sasuke pause, but only for a moment.
"There was a time when we walked together in the light," he said. "Then Itachi chose to walk in darkness to protect us. I have chosen the same path. No one will ever hurt you again. I'll make sure of it. In the meantime, you'll be safe here."
No, I wasn't. In fact there were few places where I was less safe.
"Obito will kill me if you defy him," I said.
But Sasuke shook his head.
"He can't," he said. "Nii-san gave you Shisui's eye. It contained the command 'Protect Uchiha Kiyo.' Obito is incapable of killing you."
Protect me? Itachi could have commanded Obito to do anything and he'd chosen that? But I supposed I could understand his reasoning. A straightforward kill-command was risky. No technique was not completely unbreakable and Kotoamatsukami could be resisted with a powerful enough Sharingan, especially if the command went against the target's nature. So he'd chosen something safer, something Obito would be less likely to notice or resist. After all, Obito had already expressed a sincere affection for me. And that same affection could be used against him.
Unfortunately, the 'protection' wasn't perfect, as Black Zetsu had proven.
"Even if that's true, he can still–" I began, but I stopped suddenly when the air beside Sasuke swirled.
"Time's up, Sasuke," said Obito. "Come. You'll need training if you want to master your Mangekyo Sharingan."
Sasuke shot him a glare and briefly tightened his grip before releasing me.
"…Fine," he said.
I looked between them, but speaking now would be dangerous for both of us. I could only watch as Obito placed his hand on Sasuke's shoulder. Neither gave me a parting word as they vanished in a swirl of chakra.
AN: Okay, I promise that this is the last time Kiyo will die in this story. Also, there will be another delay before the next chapter. Times will be busy for the next few months again, but this next break shouldn't be nearly as long as the last one. The next chapter is also going to be another Different Perspectives chapter because there's quite a lot going on right now with different characters.