Disclaimers:I do not own Naruto or any of the characters in this story.
Pairings: Probably none. I find that pairings or focusing on them hinder my stories… so gomen nasai.
Chapter 12 – Tension
"You didn't kill her," Itachi said simply, his expressionless face did not reveal his displeasure.
"I was interrupted nii-san," Naruto's voice was subdued, angry at himself for hesitating and for failing Itachi nii-san.
Itachi merely gazed at him, his eyes flashing red before retaining its dark navy blue hue. Naruto would be punished later, after they spoke with him. His eyes softened briefly at the prone figure of Sasuke before condemning his younger brother for being such a weak avenger. Konoha had become weak after all, just like he said and soon…
"Naruto," Itachi spoke with his apathetic elegance. "You are disappointing."
Hurt flashed in Naruto's cerulean eyes, dimming its normal brilliance. Something was wrong with his nii-san. He usually wasn't this mean. But he quelled the thought, the feeling of betrayal. He deserved it after all, since he failed. The orders were explicitly clear after all: kill your female teammate and retrieve Sasuke. Seven simple words and Naruto was only able to do two. He bowed his head in shame. This was the first mission he didn't complete and guilt ate at his conscience. What if something happened to Itachi nii-san because he failed? What if Itachi nii-san died? There was pressure in his throat and he identified it as worry. What would happen now?
"Gomen nasai," Naruto whispered contritely. "I will not fail again. I will not-"
"You failed this time," Itachi cut in coldly. Naruto winced. Then he waited for more of this strange Itachi's censure. "That is what matters and as a shinobi, you blackened my name in front of my master. That is unforgivable."
Naruto weakly fell to his knees. Itachi nii-san served someone? The invincible person who saved him from his loneliness, saved him from himself… Naruto cleared his thoughts. That did not matter as long as Itachi nii-san was here.
"Come, it is time for you to meet him," Itachi motioned for him to stand and follow him. "You will serve him too and you will not fail me again."
Naruto climbed to his feet. "What about Sasuke?"
Impatience sparked Itachi's eyes. "Carry him."
"Hai," he quietly responded. This person was terrifying. Naruto slung Sasuke over his shoulder and followed Itachi through a dim cavern wondering what had happened during the short time they had been apart to change his older brother to this cold apathetic man.
Naruto followed Itachi hesitantly and when they entered peculiar double doors, he refrained from comment. Even if those golden gilded doors were old of place in a dusky cavern, Naruto could only focus on his adopted brother. He dismissed the beauty of the room as he guiltily pondered on what made him hesitate. The fact that he formed attachments and failed boggled his mind and a part of him wanted to relive that moment, just so he would not fail. The splendor of artistically shaped columns lining the walkway, with shimmering silver vines twining around them, the soft trickling of water musically echoing in the cavernous hall did not distract him from his heavy thoughts.
When Itachi stopped before a marble throne, finely sculpted to form oceanic waves with frothing horses as the armrest and four majestic merman wielding glistening tritons forming the backrest, Naruto paused in wonder. Then Itachi's humble kneel brought him to reality. This was the master Itachi nii-san spoke of and Naruto nervously mimicked Itachi's gesture, not daring to look at the person reclining on the throne.
"Itachi-kun," an almost playful voice greeted lightly. The voice was smooth, cultured, a soothing tenor laced with deceptive warmth. Naruto shivered. "I heard from a messenger that your little toy failed. How disappointing," the voice darkened.
"Forgive me, Yondaime-sama," Itachi intoned dully. Naruto mentally winced and shuddered. Yondaime? Then is this person my… It's probably simply another person who was the fourth of something. This man must be extremely powerful for his nii-san to be so humble and obedient. It was a side of Itachi nii-san he never saw before.
"Still, at least the boy didn't fail to bring your little brother," the master murmured. "Things will be interesting, will it not, Naruto-chan?" Naruto stilled as the voice sharpened and was almost cruelly smooth. "What will we do with little Sasuke-kun? He is useless since he is so weak. I'm disappointed in him as well. Itachi-kun, it must be very disappointing to see the failure that is your brother, isn't it?
"Hai, Yondaime-sama," Itachi's voice was quiet, controlled. Naruto could only stare at the ground in shame and a tinge of fear. This strange interview perplexed him.
"Naruto-chan, why don't you come here?" the Yondaime silkily demanded.
Itachi made a small movement. "Yondaime-sama-."
The temperature of the room dropped to a wintry degree. Itachi quieted and Naruto hesitantly looked at him and saw some of the old concern and care. Naruto then glanced at the man on the throne and was a little surprised at the man's spiky blond hair that rested a little past his shoulder. His face was well-formed, handsome even, and his body was toned with leashed power. And his eyes were burning scarlet.
Naruto cautiously walked up to this strange powerful force and when he stood in front of the throne, within the Yondaime's arm's reach, Naruto stood, bracing himself uncertainly. Silk-encased fingers traced his cheek, and Naruto stopped breathing. The gesture was tender, like a parent caressing a child as they slept and Naruto fought the urge to learn into the touch. The fingers traced both his cheeks, his nose, and finally rested on his forehead.
"So much like me," the Yondaime whispered gently. "What a beautiful curse you are, Naruto-chan."
Naruto felt Itachi stiffen behind him.
"Do you know who you are? What you are?" He relentlessly asked. "What a beautiful son you would have been to him," he ended with a snarl of hatred and disgust. The hand on his forehead twisted to hold his head in a vise-like grip. Naruto started sweating. It wasn't quite painful, but the tension, the fear rising in his gut, choked him. "Answer me!" Arashi demanded, holding Naruto's head in a painfully tighter grip.
Naruto's throat felt dry and rasphy. He knew he had to answer, but sound wouldn't go past his throat. The man's killing intent overpowered him and he struggled to suppress a dry sob of fear. This man, this man, this man…. Would kill him. This man hated him, loathed him and Naruto knew and was terrified.
The Yondaime chuckled in a sinister tone. "Poor little child. You don't know anything. It's quite lovely actually. The folly of humans. Filthy humans." He laughed, the cold sound echoing in the hall. Naruto felt sweat dripping down his right cheek and shuddered in pain. Maybe it was blood. "I will tell you a secret. Did you know Itachi-kun sought you out because I ordered him? Did you know that your relationship, your precious onii-san is my tool and doesn't care for you at all? Ah, the precious blindness of babes. The irony, the loveliness, my wonderful story!" the Yondaime finished with a flourish, standing with fluid grace and by doing so, lifted Naruto three inches above the ground. He brought Naruto's ear closer to his lips to whisper, "Your life has been a dream. A foolish wistful wish. And poof! It is over!" He used his other hand to grip Naruto's neck and Naruto hung limply, shocked, hurt, confused, and fear made his body tremble. "It is over," he whispered again, and threw Naruto across the room. Naruto's body slammed against one of the pillars and the air whooshed out of his lungs. Weakly he looked up at Itachi as he coughed up blood.
It couldn't be true. Life couldn't be this cruel and Itachi…. Nii-san… wouldn't be… Itachi's eyes were closed and he was kneeling before Arashi. Stone-faced and apathetic to Naruto's gasping breaths. He used the pillar to slowly, gingerly get to his feet.
"Itachi nii-san. You lied to me! You… is it true?" Naruto asked brokenly, leaning on the pillar with his right arm.
Itachi did not answer.
"Itachi!" Naruto managed to yell. "Is it true!"
Itachi nodded without looking at him. "It is true. You were a mission."
Naruto choked back a sob. "So everything… all those things we did together… Do you mean that all this time Itachi-nii san, you lied to me? Everything was a lie?"
"Yes," Itachi answered. "He was the only Hokage I respected. And… He is your father… he never died."
Naruto stared at him in disbelief. "My father?" Naruto repeated. "What kind of father does this to his child?"
The Yondaime laughed, interrupting their conversation. "As lovely as this heart-to-heart moment is, I grow weary of your simplicity. You are both fools and I am delighted to see your pain Naruto-chan. Your loneliness, confusion, betrayal… such wonderful emotions to feast on. Soon, it will be over. Are you not happy Naruto-chan? My wonderful son!"
"I don't understand," Naruto said softly, his voice laced with pain. "Why are you doing this? If you are my father-"
"I only took his form because he took mine," the Yondaime answered, dark chakra flaring. Itachi suddenly looked up, horror on his face. The Yondaime smiled, causing a sinister effect. "Oh Itachi-kun, did you not know? It would have been obvious if you had truly known the Yondaime. But you were so young, what would you remember?"
Naruto struggled to breathe. Itachi looked broken, thunderstruck at the idea that he had been serving the Kyuubi instead of the man he idolized.
"I grow bored with you children. Itachi, prove your loyalty. Kill Naruto and Sasuke," the Yondaime ordered coldly, smiling. "I am still the man you've served for over seven years. Will you betray me now? No one will accept you now, not even Naruto. Look at his loathing… do you think he will ever trust you now? Love you like a little brother?"
Itachi woodenly stood, pulling out a kunai. Naruto looked at him with fear.
Sasuke coughed weakly. All three gazes turned to look at his slowly waking form.
Naruto ran toward Sasuke, throwing his body over his shoulder using the distraction. They would kill him too. Itachi would… so Naruto ran.
He wished Kyuubi was with him. If Arashi was the Kyuubi, then the Kyuubi really had been his father, not just in name only…. Otou-san…
He felt Itachi's chakra behind him and Naruto sped up. Normally, Itachi could not match his speed, but Sasuke's weight was slowing him down.
Naruto sped out of the cavern, knowing Itachi would be merciless in his pursuit. Knowing that even if Itachi knew that Arashi was the Kyubi, there was a high possibility that Itachi would still kill him.
So Naruto ran.
Because he had no one to trust anymore.
Preview of the next chapter:
Chapter 13 - Dreams
It was the end of everything. Flight for life and death. Ripples of leaves in the wind.
"I made a promise long ago, and I never thought I would break it." – Itachi