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yume,

risou ni kaeru

92

Sasuke had never punched someone so hard in his life. And Naruto had never been punched so hard in his life.

Truly. Madly. Deeply.

They were meant to be.

93

Team Gai, with Team Kakashi, left Konoha at exactly nine o'clock PM.

(it wasn't so hard to notice Naruto's purple, very painful-looking swollen cheek… and Sasuke's smug, and creepy, and oddly jazzy smirk

"Aw, fuck, I was just thinking aloud,"

Sasuke looked at him blankly, "loud, yes. Thinking, no shit."

"YOU ASS—"

"if you want to keep your front teeth, shut the fuck up.")

That night, watching the moon-lit Konoha, the lady Hokage was standing by the window. From the distance, she can see the twin round lanterns of Ichiraku. Faintly, a small smile appeared on her lips.

"…for sure, Uchiha will notice,"

The faint smile vanished instantly, as if scrubbed. Tsunade didn't jerk in surprise upon hearing the voice coming outside the open widows.

"…that you have Hyuuga around his neck."

Tsunade snorted as she turned away from the windows. "Of course." She said with a slight roll of her eyes, turning back to the desk strewn with official-looking papers. "That boy is astonishingly clever. The mission is easy. A team of Team Gai's caliber could handle such mission." Brown eyes narrowed, a strained frown wrinkled her forehead. Absent-mindedly, she swept her hand over the top of her table. Unfinished paperwork was stacked neatly at the corner of the table. Few papers were scattered. At the top was a paper with a heading: HEIKO SHI HEN KEI.

Brown brows furrowed and Tsunade looked away.

"The Council is persistent." She said, suppressing the fatigue underneath the steel layer of her tone. "They want her examined. They want to map out the terrain inside that tiny brain."

"I don't understand why the Project… —" Jiraiya stepped out of the shadows, now bathed in moonlight. His bushy hair made a bulky shadow across the floor of the dark office. "…is a big deal. It was an object made for Konoha. It didn't come out like a huge bazooka or special jutsu but Heiko shi hen kei was created to protect the village."

Tsunade threw Jiraiya a dry look. "Why are you so sure that it was made to protect the village?"

When Jiraiya shrugged, she snorted, unimpressed."I don't believe that they made it to protect the village. They created it to prove their genius."

"The First would be rolling madly in his grave if he hears that." Jiraiya promptly closed his mouth at Tsunade's deadly glare.

"The Project created a disturbance among the ranks of ninjas. I believe it will bring disasters."

Jiraiya smirked slyly. "Don't worry. Uchihas have the power to make disasters their slaves."

Something about what he said jerked an expression on Tsunade's face. She hesitated and Jiraiya sensed it. With a slow turn of her head, Tsunade stared back with grim, almost dire expression. With an almost sinister air, the half of her face was shadowed and her brown eye was hooded as she spoke.

"I was informed…" She paused, contemplatively. "Danzo wanted to create a breeding farm."

Jiraiya made a sour face. "Danzo, eh? He's crazy, isn't he? Breed an army of human torches, eh?" He leaned on the window frame, frowning disapprovingly. "So, he wanted to create his own disaster. A monster he can control."

"The idea was… tempting, isn't it?" the woman said quietly.

"Are you crazy?" Jiraiya laughed and grinned. "I don't want a monster who can throw a fireball at me instead of a wet flying kiss! I'd rather breed a thousand comfort dolls, you know? With massive coconuts and—" A fist hit the side of his head. The man groaned and felt his brain jiggled inside his skull.

Crazy… woman.

"The white masked ninjas who attacked Team Kakashi in Hidden Little Falls are from Leaf. That's what Mudo had said." Tsunade sat down in her chair.

"And you believed him?"

"He doesn't have any reasons to lie about something as delicate as this. The man was an elite ANBU captain who knew the dirt of Konoha like the back of his hand. He seemed to be close with Yondaime and I have a hunch that he was involved with Project Sakura. And when I said 'involved'— it means he's directly involved. I believed he can help us unearth the secrets of Heiko shi hen kei."

Jiraiya raised a brow at her. "Why are you doing this again?"

"I want the truth."

The brow lowered. "The truth has many faces."

"Nevertheless, I want the truth and I want it now." Tsunade paused, pensive. "Aren't you curious? Uchiha and Hyuuga cooperating to make something. Uchiha cooperating with my grandfather to make something. Instead of a jutsu… they made a doll?"

Jiraiya shook his head, "your curiosity will someday kill you, that's what I'm so sure about."

"Shut up." Tsunade snapped. "What bothers me is that she got what humans got inside their bodies. And yet, the diary says," her red-polished nail tapped the diary entry highlighted in green marker, "it's a non-living thing."

"Maybe she's a clone or something. A dummy who got a nice face and body."

A sharp exhale escaped the Hokage. "She's acting far more than a clone!"

"Be thankful, then. It's crazy but… we're talking about the Haruno family here. And Uchiha. The Hyuuga Clan. And your grandfather. Put them together and you get a crazy mix."

Tsunade heaved a deep sigh. "I know."

"So, what do you want me to do, aside from watching your quest for greatness?"

"I want you to keep an eye on Mudo."

"You want me to baby-sit someone as old as myself?" the man bellowed in disbelief.

"Yes. I want him monitored. Peek together. Eat together. Die together. That kind of babysitting." Tsunade snapped with a sneer. "It's about time you do something aside from shrinking your own brain."

94

The two Jounin teams arrived in the Land of Maho after three days of travel. It was located 145 kilometers from Land of Earth, surrounded with walls of mountains. Ahead of them was a clear field of dry earth. Land of Maho, unlike Earth and Fire, was a non-ninja land. It was more oriented to business and agriculture. That was the reason why Konoha was extremely concerned with the situation the Maho was facing. Ninja business wasn't their forte. But the Maho Generator… was something the Five Great Countries would like to get their hands on.

"We're here." Hyuuga Neji announced, landing on his feet noiselessly. The others stopped around him, except for Sakura who perched on a tree branch, looking out to the dry field.

The team members were not on their typical Jounin uniforms. As suggested by Neji, they chose to travel as civilians, their forehead protectors tucked safely inside their bags. As much as possible, they wanted to be inconspicuous. Furthermore, one of their agendas was to steer Leaf off the blame list.

"That's Maho?" Sakura looked over the thick branches and dry field, eyeing the massive walls. "They're like a walled city. Looks unfriendly. I like Konohagakure more. I like tress, flowers and—"

Sasuke looked up, and then twitched. "Sakura."

"Yes?"

"Get the hell down from there." Your panties are showing, you idiot.

"But I like the view here! It's great! See it for yourself!"

Sasuke's lip twitched, damn right, the view is great, idiot. Naruto raised a brow, noticing the faint blush on Sasuke's cheeks.

"Sakura." The Uchiha growled. The pink-haired sighed.

"Fine, fine! I'm going down, down— down—" she landed beside Sasuke easily. "What are we doing here?" The hems of her dress— red with short sleeves and made of cotton— rose higher than what was proper.

"Listen to him." Sasuke jerked his chin toward Neji.

Sakura looked up to him, "but I only listen to you."

Sasuke narrowed his eyes. "Be quiet and listen to him." Sakura pouted. As Neji discussed the mission, Sakura tilted her head in a listening gesture, turning her face to the side. Her ears perked up, catching a noise.

"Sasuke-sama." The gold of her eyes glimmered, shinning like neon lights and slowly, the gold pupils consumed the green irises.

Dark eyes narrowed, not looking at her. "I said, listen to Hyuuga."

Suddenly, a look of terror crossed her face. "Sasuke-sama, the village—" Surprising Sasuke, Sakura ran off. Uchiha cursed tersely, calling after her.

"Stop, Sakura!" The girl didn't as much as look at him. "Damn it, you idiot!" Ignoring Neji's orders of "stay put, Uchiha!", Sasuke followed the girl. Naruto later pursued the two, and then, Team Gai followed.

"Sakura!"

She had reached the clearing that led to the walled village. Her pace quickened, "STOP!"

"Sakura—"

The silence was loud, a clear warning—

(tick-tock)

(tick-tock)

Sakura ran, and in Sasuke's point of view she seemed to run in a slow-mo—

(tick-tock)

Silence, deafening, loud. Hanging like a thread. It was as if the sounds of the world were muted. Only movements in slowmo was preserved: sandals thudding the ground, Sasuke running, a hand reaching out, lips mouthing her name, blue skies, cloudy skies, blinking birds, floating leaves, pink hair rippling, she ran, ran, ran—

A huge explosion shook the earth.

The sounds came back. And the sounds were unpleasant, loud, chilly.

Violent.

Sakura skidded to a halt. Dust rose around her feet, gravel scrunched under the soles of her shoes. Her gold eyes were wide and popping.

……

… "NOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Her scream reverberated, drowned by the force of the explosion that tremble the earth. Reaching her, Sasuke harshly grabbed Sakura around her waist and pulled her down to the ground, almost slamming her body to the ground. His large body covered hers as gravel, chunks of earth rose and fell. Above them, the sky had turned black and gray, smoke-filled and a huge mushroom-shaped smoke and fire covered the atmosphere.

"Damn it…" Sasuke grasped Sakura's head tightly against his chest. What the hell was that? The explosion caused an earthquake for a few minutes. He waited, unconsciously putting his tremendous weight on Sakura. By the time the earthquake was finished, Sasuke heard Naruto's screams.

"SAKURA-CHAN! SASUKE! DAMN IT!" Sasuke pushed himself up to his hands and knees. He looked down to Sakura who was wincing under his tremendous weight. Her pink hair was fanned out under her head. With his large hand, he cupped the side of her head roughly.

"Sakura, what's wrong? Are you hurt?" Sasuke demanded. Her face was flushed and her eyes were glazed over.

"Your hand…" Sakura whispered huskily. Sasuke blinked, bewildered, frowning heavily. "…it's heavy."

"What… the hell—" he looked down, his gaze traveled slowly from her flushed face to—

"I can't… breathe. Your hand… is heavy…—"

-her chest, where his hand was planted firmly on her right breast. Immediately, Sasuke's face erupted into a violent shade of crimson. He snatched his hand up and grabbed her upper arm instead. "You annoying… idiot." He snapped hotly and got up, pulling her up roughly. Naruto was running toward them, Team Gai behind him.

"Hey! You okay?"

"We're fine." The boy grunted, still embarrassed. "Sakura," Sasuke narrowed his eyes at her, indicating he wanted an explanation. Once she was on her feet and steady, she gripped the front of Sasuke's shirt and looked up to him, her eyes teary.

"They blew up the market, Sasuke-sama!"

His eyes widened. Blew up? Like—

Green eyes glimmered like neon. "They blew it up and there are people everywhere— women, children—"

"How did you—" Neji began but Sakura interrupted him.

"I saw it!" She turned back to Sasuke, "don't ask me how but it's true! We've got to help them—"

"And how is that possible?" Neji cut off, sharply. "You can't bring people back to life, can you?" Sasuke squinted, indifferent with the remark. Neji continued, "We find the generator and destroy it! That's the only way to stop the civil war." Sakura opened her mouth but Sasuke's grip on her arm tightened. He shook his head slightly and stared at her hard. Defeated, she dropped her gaze and her hands from his shirt.

"How much time do we have?" asked Sasuke.

"Three days. Aside from the generator, we also have to search for the people involved in this mess." Hyuuga replied curtly, eyeing Sakura suspiciously.

Sasuke nodded once. "Alright. Let's go in."

"Are you crazy?" Ten-ten exclaimed. "We can't just go in there while people bomb each other!"

Dark eyes narrowed. "There's a war going on. You don't expect a welcoming committee, do you?"

This… hateful jerk! Ten-ten thought hotly. "Fine! Neji, wear these dark glasses— AND DON'T COMPLAIN. We can't let people stare at you! Your eyes will draw attention and they screamed 'we're from Leaf and we're here to kill your neighbor'."

Neji looked affronted at the description, nonetheless, with the Tenten was shoving the huge, round dark glasses to his face, he had no options left but to accept and wear them. No matter how stupid they looked on him and him wearing them.

And then, Ten-ten turned to Sakura and Sasuke, her eyes on Sakura's hair. "And Barbie doll, wear your hood, please. Your hair's annoyingly bright and I don't want to be asked whether your hair was natural or dyed."

95

"Ten-ten, Lee and I will search the land for the generator. The three of you will try to gather information about the people responsible for the Maho generator project." Neji was saying. "And that's the plan."

Naruto gawked, "that's the plan?"

Neji frowned as a response.

"Right." Naruto drawled. "You do the fun part. We do the boring part. Great."

"Dobe, shut up."

The blonde ninja turned to Sasuke and threw his hands up in the air to emphasize his point. "But it's true! It's boring! We find people to torture while they find something to blow apart!"

"Naruto has a point." Sakura said with an innocent shrug. Pleased, Naruto grinned at her.

"Sakura, shut up."

The girl pouted broodingly, still upset with the bombing that occurred the day before. She was standing by the window, watching the street below them from their second floor room. "I want to go home…" she murmured softly.

"We can. If you do your job." Neji said, strapping a kunai around his ankle. He still wore his dark glasses, due to Ten-ten's insistence. "The earlier we find the generator and the people involved, the earlier we finish this mission." He drew himself up to his full height, looking around his teammates. "Do your job."

Both Naruto and Sasuke looked at the Hyuuga from the corner of their eyes, disdain evident on their features. It was apparent, but Neji ignored them, whilst Lee smiled in the background with anxiety.

"With your… abilities—" Neji continued as he looked at Sakura directly. "I'm sure this is a child's play."

Sasuke and Naruto narrowed their eyes.

Sakura bit her lip, her eyebrows making a thin line above her heavy-lidded eyes, matching Neji's even stare.

The strict captain opened the door and left without a word. Ten-ten and Lee followed, the latter bothered to say goodbye, closing the door behind him.

"See ya, Fuzzy-brows!" Naruto called after Lee. As soon as the door was shut, the blonde let out a curse and plopped back to the bed facedown. "That white-eyed freak! I hate his guts…"

Sasuke silently agreed, watching Sakura who slid down to the floor, hugging her knees. Slowly, he approached her and squatted in front of her.

"Oi."

Smilingly, Sakura looked up. Pink bangs fell over her eyes. "Are you going to ask if I'm okay?"

Sasuke snorted, Naruto chuckled, watching the two.

"Well, I'm fine, thank you. You'll ask, are you sure? I'll say, yes!"

The dark-haired ninja shook his head, hiding a smirk. "I'm starting to dislike you."

"Oh?" Sakura poked Sasuke's cheek playfully. And surprisingly, the boy didn't dodge the touch. "It means you like me, right? Ohhh, how sweet."

"Idiot." With his long index finger, Sasuke flicked her forehead and seized her arm to pull her up to her feet.

96

"The village suffered a lot." Naruto remarked, looking around. The atmosphere was dreary and tensed. Villagers constantly looked around nervously, as though waiting for a bomb to explode in their feet.

"The sooner we found the assholes responsible for the Maho mess, we'll kill them as soon as possible." Sasuke grunted, keeping his guard up and his lashes lowered. As expected, Sakura turned to him with a shocked look.

"Kill them? Kill people…?" Sakura intoned with feeling.

Sasuke raised a brow flatly. "Kill them. Do I have to spell it out for you?"

Sakura frowned. "But they're people."

He snorted. "Being a person doesn't guarantee that the person acts a human."

"Still—"

"Awww, Sakura-chan… let me tell you about the different types of people." Naruto grinned lopsidedly. "The Basics of Human Nature—"

"That's shit." Naruto made a face as Sasuke snapped. "You listen to me. We need to eliminate those people to restore peace in Maho. What they do, what they create and design– the Maho Generator – is what tears this place apart. This is a mission and as a ninja, you don't view the matter as a person. This is strictly business, nothing personal."

"…so, you view people's lives as a business, huh?" said Sakura, brows lowered.

Sasuke arched a brow.

"I'm not a person but… I value human lives."

The two male ninjas exchanged looks.

Uchiha snorted softly. "You value it… because you craved for it, didn't you?"

Sakura stared.

Growing uncomfortable with her unblinking stare, Sasuke cleared his throat, not meeting Sakura's direct gaze. "Whatever." He pushed his fists inside his pockets. "I don't care about your views, Sakura. If you don't want to fight, fine. Step aside and watch us do it for you."

"But—"

"You're not from here, aren't you?" A voice interrupted.

Sasuke withdrew his heated gaze from Sakura and looked where the voice came. A young woman— probably three years older than him— was watching the three of them with curiosity. Her hair was dark brown and she had prudent gray eyes. "You don't look familiar. You… are foreigners, aren't you?"

The three Leaf ninjas exchanged looks. This woman is… "We're travelers." Sasuke replied promptly.

"Oh. I knew it. The three of you are good-looking people." She said in a straightforward tone. Even her gray gaze was direct. "There are very few good-looking people here."

She's one of the few. Sakura thought, smiling politely.

"Ano…" Sakura scratched her cheek shyly while Naruto grinned toothily. "You are…"

A small smile tugged at her thin lips. "Kaoru."

Sakura grinned lopsidedly. "I am…" Catching Sasuke's eyes, she lowered her gaze, closing her mouth.

"Forgive my little sister's frankness." Sasuke stated formally. Beside him, Naruto arched a brow, little sister, huh? The dark-haired ninja stared back flatly as he continued. "She's terribly curious."

Kaoru smiled. "It's okay." Her gray eyes lifted to stare at Sasuke's dark orbs. "Are you lost? This village is in civil war. I don't think you'll like to stay here to relax."

Naruto feigned a surprised, worried expression. "A civil war?"

Sasuke mentally applauded Naruto's acting skills. The blonde's an idiot but as an actor, Naruto was superb. Not that Sasuke would state it verbally.

"…what happened? What caused the war?" the blonde continued.

The woman sighed first before replying, "It's Maho Generator plus sibling rivalry plus jealousy plus power hunger… equals to civil war!"

"Sibling rivalry?" Sasuke narrowed his eyes, "what do you mean?"

"Oh, you're amateurs, aren't' you?" Sasuke suppressed a snort, amateurs?— are you kidding me? "Oh well, Arisawa Kiseki and Gin are half-brothers. Kiseki-sama is the village's leader. Gin is a bastard who envied his brother's position. Kiseki-sama appointed his brother to be his assistant even though Gin knows nothing but greed. He supported the mass construction of generators while Kiseki-sama doesn't. He knew that the waste product is killing people and livestock! It's poisoning the villagers and the animals."

"But Gin recognized the wealth and military power the generator twill bring." Sasuke said, quietly.

Kaoru nodded. "Yes. I lost my husband in this silly war."

Sasuke saw Sakura flinch, probably remembering Mudo.

"He was supporting Kiseki-sama. The North Maho—" Kaoru pointed, "was taken by Gin's ninjas. This town— the major town of Maho— is the remaining stronghold of Kiseki-sama's loyal supporters. But yesterday, the market was bombed and many people died. I lost my friend there… she's only sixteen."

"I'm sorry…" Sakura murmured.

A smile was the last thing Sasuke was expecting from the woman who had lost two important people in her life. "It's okay. It's getting more violent each day. I suggest you leave the village."

Sakura looked at the gray-eyed woman with a frown. "How about you, why don't you leave this place?"

The woman flashed another prudent smile. "My husband died here. He died for this village. I want… I want to see the end of this conflict. For him. I don't want to leave, he died here and if I'm going to die, I want it to be here."

"…you're very brave." Sakura smiled thoughtfully.

Kaoru laughed. "I got used to it. But what frustrates me and saddens me most is the bleak future of the children living here. To grow up in this violent environment…" she motioned with her hands, "is traumatic."

Her gray eyes were watching the tiny children clutched by their frightened mothers.

"That's why my husband fought in the civil war. He wanted to fight for the future generation of this village."

"That's right." Naruto said quietly.

Sasuke watched the woman with careful eye. "Do you have any idea where Arisawa Gin is?" He asked, careful to keep his tone neutral.

Gray eyes met dark orbs. "Why do you want to know?"

"Curiosity." Sauske shrugged, smirking a little. "He's an asshole."

The woman laughed good-naturedly. "I heard he was in North. That's where he established rule, anyway."

"I see," Sasuke looked at the direction of the North Maho. "Then, we should stay away from North."

"Precisely. They don't like strangers there. So, you better stay here in town. Even though it's dangerous and bombs are part of our daily life."

The two males nodded. "Thank you for you information." Naruto grinned. "We'll be careful."

"Yes, yes… be alert, okay? You'll never know that you're stepping on a bomb already."

"Ehhhh?" Naruto gawked.

Kaoru nodded sympathetically. "That's how dangerous this place is." Her eyes focused on Sakura, eyeing the pink strands of hair curling in front of Sakura's eye. "And look after your little sister very closely."

Sakura blinked at her.

Sasuke scowled. "Why is that?"

The woman smiled, "Gin is known to be… very curious with exotic things.He likes a lot of pretty things. Be it an object or…" Her gray eyes darkened, "a person."

Naruto didn't like the sound of it.

"We'll just look for supplies, and then we leave as soon as possible." Sasuke said, becoming aware of the stares of the people around them. How long will it take for Gin to discover that there are foreigners in Maho?

"The market's gone so you'll have trouble for sure. If you want, I can help you. What do you need?"

Sakura shook her head, smiling. "No, it's okay. We can manage."

"My little sister is right." Sasuke agreed. "If we can't find supplies, that's alright. We'll just leave."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive," Naruto grinned. "Thank you for kindness, Kaoru-san!"

"Hai. Be careful. Stay away from North, alright?"

"Hai."

97

"YOU WILL GO WITH US IN NORTH MAHO?" Naruto bellowed after hearing Neji's decision.

"Yes." Neji replied calmly.

"BUT… WHY? YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO LOOK AFTER THE GENERATOR!"

"Naruto…" Sasuke growled warningly.

Neji was impatiently leaning against a wall, facing Naruto. "If we find Gin, he'll tell us where to find the generator."

The blonde ninja made a face. "That's crap. What made you think he'll tell us?"

"Enough, Naruto." Sasuke intervened, standing up with a fist inside his pocket. "Remember, we are just back-up." He gave Neji a piercing glare.

"Why don't we just go?" Tenten said impatiently.

"Exactly. Let the youthful youthfulness in our youth prevail!" Lee pumped a fist in the air excitedly.

Naruto looked at Lee blankly. "The way you said it made me doubt your sanity."

98

From the concealed treetops, six figures perched and watched what little they could see of North Maho. As expected, the place was plain, very, very plain. No life. No noise, nor bright lights. The security was passable. In Sasuke's opinion, it was easy to breach, as long as the infiltration was smooth and quiet.

Tenten inched closer to Neji. "What's the plan? How do we get inside without rousing suspicion?" she nodded at the two guards stationed at the main gate. "They don't look friendly."

"Knock them out?" suggested Naruto though the transmitter.

"Smile?" Sakura whispered.

"Greet them!" said Lee with enthusiasm.

Sasuke snorted. "I go with Naruto's suggestion. As much as it pains me…"

"Shut up, bastard. I'm cool and you know it!"

"If cool means stupid, yeah, you're cool."

"Direct assault is risky." Neji cut off, before Naruto could fire back.

"How about we waltz in and pretend as Maho villagers?" Tenten said.

"No." Sasuke opposed. "Someone in town recognized the three of us as foreigners. There is no guarantee that those guards will play pretend with us."

"What do you suggest?" Tenten said, a little impatience hinted her tone.

"Just kill them."

"No!" Sakura argued, "you just can't—"

"We can't waste our time dawdling here." Neji slowly straightened up. "I like Sasuke's suggestion."

Uchiha smirked, standing up as well.

"You two are violent badass guys." Tenten muttered under her breath. Sasuke jumped down from his tree branch, landing noiselessly, followed by Neji, Lee, Naruto, Tenten and Sakura.

99

Across them, standing in front of the gates, the two guards squinted as six silhouettes approached.

"Who's there?" The one on the left shouted. "Curfew is—" There was a blinding flash of blue light that lit up the front of the gates. Six faces greeted their visions, grave and tight.

"What the hell—"

The person in front of the group was holding a bright shaft of light in his hand while he held a katana on the other. The shaft elongated, stretching forward.

"Hn."

There was a noise— sharp, piercing, like a noise of thousand birds chirping together, as the shaft of lightning shaped in a form of a blade pierced the air and—

"What the f—"

chi-chi-chi—chi…

"You're…" a feminine voice murmured, then, sighed.

"Don't look."

"Sasuke-sama…"

"Don't look."

Sakura turned her face away just as the shape manipulated Chidori pierced the guard's chest that elicited a cry of pain. There was a curse from the other guard which was promptly silenced by a kunai hitting his throat. Another piercing cry filled the night as the Chidori burst from the inside, creating spikes of lightning shafts protruding from the inside of the body. Two thuds indicated two bodies hitting the ground.

Ztttt… zttt— Silence.

"Sasuke-sama…"

"That was flashy." Neji grunted. "I was about to suggest a more subtle attack."

"Hn."

"Subtle?" snorted Naruto. "Subtle is crap. Let's move!"

"Move at top speed. 4 o'clock!" Neji crouched before disappearing, followed by Tenten and Lee. Team Kakashi followed, jumping, somersaulting and in exactly five minutes, they reached the tower, standing in front of a massive rock formation. Strangely, the entrances were unguarded.

Sasuke glanced at Neji, what now? His expression asked. Veins appeared around Neji's eyes as Byakugan scanned the area.

Neji spoke to the transmitter, "top floor." With a signal, the six ninjas entered the tower, speeding up to the top floor. When they reached a door— the only closed door in the top floor, Neji raised his hand, stopping them. "There are two people inside." His Byakugan narrowed. "…their chakra—"

"What?" urged Lee.

They're… familiar—

"Let's go and finish this!" hissed Naruto. The blonde ninja stepped forward and shoved the door open as he stepped inside. However, halfway stepping inside, Naruto stopped, his spine straight and tensed.

"What the… hell." Naruto muttered.

Sasuke pushed him aside. "What—" He paused. The rest of the team frowned at the oddity of their actions. Crowding the doorway, the rest of them looked inside.

Familiar cloaks greeted their sight. Black with spots of red.

Red clouds.

And a straw hat with short drapes surrounding the brim.

"…the hell are you doing here?" Sakura heard Sasuke dragged out, coldly, tightly.

The man with straw hat lifted his chin.

"Ah." His voice was smooth and cold. "…foolish little brother."