27/10/2005

This was originally a one-shot, before I decided to break it up into 3 parts. And yes, technically, the story is finished. There will be mature scenes somewhere in this story, so consider yourself warned. But, no, nothing...bold will be posted here, because that's how this site works. If you think boys have cooties and girls are "eww!", turn back now. First part is remotely clean, but I won't guarantee the others. Ratings will be changed to M when the other parts come up.

Okay, I'm done crapping. You can move on now.

Closing the Chapter
Thanks to SharinganK for beta-ing.

Act 1:
Strife

The rain was hard and cold, shifting the dirt on the ground.

The sky growled.

His gloved fist clenched, and in one swift motion, twisted his wrist as kunai shot out from in between his flexed fingers. His muscles tensed.

The other merely lifted an arm fully sleeved with black cloth, in a Rock Lee style. The irony, to use a stance of his olden days...

"Come."

The tone held no hint of warmth.

Black eyes swirled into crimson.

"It's a promise of a lifetime."

Metal clashed with metal.

"I - I beg you! Please...please bring him back!"

A choke.

A pivot, a duck. A palm slammed onto the ground. A twist of body. A foot launched into the back of his right knee, causing him to kneel.

"My lifetime wish..."

The assault did not stop there. A push with the palm, and the black-garbed man was off the ground. Another turn, and a knee slammed into the jaw, the momentum kicking him from the ground. He was mid-air now, a harsh, stifled groan of pain wrenched from his throat before he fell to the ground.

"Katon! Housenka No Jutsu!"

Three kunais, bursting with fire, embedded into him, and...poof. He disappeared before he even touched the grass.

The foe stopped in his tracks, and cocked his head to a side casually. Almost too casually. Two daggers whistled past, cutting off strands of black hair. It would have hit the tree, but then the shadow leaped, and twisted, kicking the kunai in mid air.

It was sent right back at him.

A feral smile graced his face, and he stepped forward, recieving the kunai, hands grabbing them before they touch him. He flicked one back into his glove, and slid a finger down the other; blood dripped. Seals were formed with quick precision, and he reached into his pouch for a scroll, deft fingers untying the knot and unrolling the paper, even as his bloody finger skid across it.

Blades - from swords to axes to polearms, morningstars, warblades, katanas, kodachis, lances - fighting blades of every imaginable type shot up from the ground, skewering, tearing, breaking apart the earth in the blink of an eye. In a one mile radius around him, forests of blade ripped anything unfortunate enough to be on the surface of earth.

He had been half-certain Sasuke had somehow avoided the assault - no, he was certain the traitor could avoid the blades. But he felt a harsh satisfaction, the stench of metallic saltiness reaching his nose...

Sasuke did not evade it unharmed.

But where was the now injured man? He looked around warily, searching through the myriad of blades for his presence. He made a few quick hand signs again, and the blades disappeared.

His surroundings were empty.

The dagger in his hand, smeared with his blood, was launched before he had even realized, guided by his instincts. It slashed across cloth, chest, a blow delivered with enough power and speed to make a lasting scar, if given the chance to heal. Blood splattered across his cheek, and his blue eyes narrowed, a glint of suspicion and wariness in his otherwise unreadable look.

It was too easy, thought Naruto. Too easy to strike.

Then Sasuke disappeared into thin air.

He could hear the whistling of an object speeding, the sound of clashing metals; and the soft rustling of cloth.

Behind.

He whirled around - and surprised blue eyes locked onto unreadable, hardened green for the briefest instant - just in time to see Sasuke looming behind him, dagger poised to block. From the corner of his eyes, he spied a kunai - which was not his -clattering on the ground. He did the first thing that came to mind, and swung a back fist at him.

Only, it missed. Sasuke had jumped a few steps back.

Tap, tap, tap. A slender woman broke into a run - almost a blur of pink - fingers curling into a tight fist, as she reached her target -

Sasuke had been ready for her. Dagger poised to strike, back leg bent slightly.

- and slammed her chakra-concentrated fist into the ground, three feet away from the man, tearing and damaging the earth further.

The slight widening of his sharingan eyes was the only hint of surprise shown. He prepared to leap from the rapidly falling chunks of earth - somehow, there had been no ground beneath him, only a thin layer of earth on the surface - but a passing shadow stopped him. Instead of jumping, he ducked, narrowly missing a blow capable of causing his skull to shatter. Naruto. Then he twisted, and using a chunk of rock, jumped backwards - creating distance between himself and his two former team mates.

None of them moved.

"...Bring him back..."

One blue. One red. One green. Three colors clashed together, creating a swirl of colors, and thousands upon thousands of memories - happy, sad, bittersweet, everything, were reincarnated in mere seconds.

A boy desired revenge, the other who desired recognition.

One was a calm, calculating ice; the other a scalding, impulsive fire.

An avenger. A Hokage.

Black and white.

Yin and Yang.

"...Sasuke-kun."

And she, who still used that endearment, was the line seperating them both.

Team Seven was reunited.

"When did you - "

"Naruto." A pink eyebrow quirked.

Said adult in question found himself cringing mentally at the disapproving tone.

"If that earthquake you made by summoning those blades weren't any indication, I don't know what is."

He stared at her blankly for a moment. She could sense that earthquake from even so far away?

"...Oh."

Then he paused. That would mean -

"I hope you realize a number of ninja had been alerted," murmured Sakura. Her green eyes were staring right ahead, analyzing the man some distance away; calculating, calm, devoid of emotion.

Damn.

"Investigations are probably being done as we speak. ANBUs are likely to be heading here, too. I wouldn't be surprised if Neji found your location, if not already."

"You didn't...tell them our whereabouts?"

She did not answer him. Instead, she clenched and flexed her fingers, one hand massaging the wrist. There was a distinctive sound of cracking bones .

"Er...Sakura-chan?"

-Crack-

The blow came without warning; a simple, open-handed slap that struck him across the jaw from the left. He was forced to take a step back, or risk dropping to the ground from the slap, and stared at her in astonishment.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Tsunade's protege almost spat, jade eyes now blazing with an inner fire that matched his own.

His right cheek was pins and needles, adding to the few injuries he had. He did a quick review of his injuries. Two cracked ribs, an internal injury in the stomach - all of which, thought Naruto, Sakura did not need to know, yet - plus the sting on his face.

"I just - "

"I'm not someone that needs to be protected, Naruto. You, you, of all people, should know that." Even as she said that, she shoved a palm to his chest, hard enough to bruise, and a soft glow emitted from her hand. She already knew the extent of his injuries without him saying anything. Her medic-trained eyes were capable of sensing an injury - particularly from him - in a split second. He had the grace to look sheepish.

Silence.

"And I told you, didn't I? Next time, we would do it together."

Blue locked onto green.

"Sakura-chan - "

She shook her head, cutting him off, and a soft sigh escaped her lips. Her palm moved downwards to his stomach, above the belly button. As her fingers probed and raked across his chest gently, the pain was diminishing into a dull throb.

Later, the body language of the woman he loved said, we will talk about this later. There were more important matters to take care of now.

Then she stepped away from him, and looked back at the forgotten traitor. He had not moved from where he stood, instead waiting patiently for their idle chat to finish.

"Sasuke."

She had dropped the endearment.

"Sakura," a raspy, cold, wrathful tone responded.

The medic-nin stilled. The man who she had once loved, clothed in black from neck to toe; was now adorned with black tattoos rapidly spreading across his face.

A tight knot formed deep in her stomach.

"No," whispered Naruto. "It can't be..."

Raven black hair grew quickly, and skin turned ash-grey. The deep slash across his chest, once bleeding profusely, closed, leaving only a thin line, caked with dried blood.

Orochimaru was dead.

...White sclera, now tainted black...

She remembered, clearly, when the throat of the legendary sannin was slashed, blood sprouting from the neatly sliced trachea, and the same liquid bubbling from the mouth...

Neither saw him preparing to leap at them, stunned as they were. Sakura realized it just by a split second earlier, and in one quick move, delivered a kick that threw the blond backwards a hundred meters away, just before a hand slammed into her stomach.

She suppressed a cry of pain, even as the momentum of the force brought her up into the air, and stayed afloat, supported only by the hand crackling with blue lightning.

But the pain increased tenfold.

A sudden searing explosion of agony wracked her body, as flesh ripped apart and burned, an electrifying, nauseating jolt to her stomach forcing a startled cry out of her. It did not matter how prepared she was then, or how she tried to remain strong, the pain was blinding. It drove every intelligent thought from her mind, and there were no actions, no feelings, no words, nothing, to describe it - save one.

It hurt.

"Tch."

Chidori.

Blood splattered onto the ground, washed away by the rain.

"Taking the blow for him?"

Since when words could hurt, she did not know. Since when Sasuke's laughter felt so distant and so hateful, she did not remember. There had not been any sadness in his tone, nor gaze. Only an abyss of hate...and yet, why...

Why was there sadness she sensed?

This pain, agony, that she felt, this..this...

Loneliness?

He swung his hand holding her swiftly, and sent her flying into the tree, with a force strong enough to shatter her backbone. She slumped, breathing heavily, the pain so blinding she thought she would have passed out, but didn't. She could not move, every slight movement resulting in excruciating pain.

There was a burst of scorching hot air that blew at her chilled skin, and she looked up. The whoe area, despite the rain, was suddenly warm, and she soaked in the heat, the warmth cloaking her from cold, and a possible pneunomia.

Her breath hitched.

"Naruto," whispered the medic-nin.

Only, it wasn't really Naruto.

The shape of a kitsune - a fox, thought Sakura with a shuddering breath, that looked horribly evil, flames licking at its body - outlined the figure of Naruto himself, and she could see fangs, extended whisker marks, sharpened nails...

And red, blood red, angry eyes.

She had heard the details of the battle between the two, a long while back.

A kyuubified Naruto, and a cursed Sasuke. It was the same as the time where they had fought at the end of the Konoha Village, at the edge where two statues of men stood guard.

Coincidentally, they were at the exact same place where that fight had occurred. Only, this time, she would be a witness to the fight.

Which she vehemently did not want to be.

"Damn it," she whispered, sounding almost defeated. Her eyes were pained, if not full of sadness. She hung her head.

She could do nothing to help.

Again.

She could barely even move, and even if she did, she would only become a burden to be taken care of in the state she was now. She could do nothing. Nothing at all.

"It's a lifetime promise."

She tried to stand, ignoring the pain stabbing at her with every movement. For a brief moment, she considered trying to fight, which was quickly wiped out when she winced in pain again. She had no chances of fighting at all, in the state she was. Her fist tightened. She could do nothing. Nothing. Not even a single thing.

"I won't go back on my word."

And yet...

A kunai sunk deep into the tree trunk, just low enough for her to use it as a ladder to push herself up. Fingers tightened around the kunai, and slowly, slowly, she pushed herself up. Her vision blurred with pain, but she persisted.

...And yet...

"That's because it's my ninja way!"

Why was she so... adamant on getting up?

She fought off the urge to drop to the floor, or at least sit down. Her legs felt incredibly weak, threatening to make her fall flat on her face. Her breathing was shallow and fast, and a small part at the back of her medically-knowledgeable mind told her she was not fit to stand at all - which she promptly ignored.

...At the very least...

She gritted her teeth, leaning on the tree for support. She willed her shaking arm to lift despite being heavy, and with her teeth, wrenched off the glove, spitting it off to the ground in an unladylike fashion. The now un-gloved hand hovered over her stomach churning with chakra at its work on mending her open wound, a soft glow at the tip of her fingers.

...There was still one thing she could do.

The undescribable agony that once sent nauseating jolts down her spine softened slowly, and it was not as electrifying as before. She took in a few deep breaths, eyes closing, willing herself to calm the erratic pattern of inhaling oxygen. Her training under Tsunade had paid off, indeed, and the pain, if not at a speed faster than any ordinary medic-nin could do, was subsiding into a harsh throb, to the point where she could handle the pain.

"Next time, we will do it together."

Then she looked up, clear, determined green eyes staring right ahead, and saw Naruto all but launching himself at Sasuke, both trading blows without reservation, displaying skills of taijutsu - and sometimes ninjutsu - like no other. Genjutsu had long been discarded, when it was clear it holds no ground in their battle.

At the very least, she could watch the fight, and she would.

She would remember this fight forever, for all her life, imprinting the feelings, thoughts, the searing pain - everything - into her mind and soul; the battle between the two boys that matured into adults, the battle between two men she had loved.

The one, final battle that will finally close a chapter that had been left open for far too long, a chapter that had been scarred with blood and pain...

So she will watch, to the very end.

One fought to protect, to keep his promise.

The other...the other fought for redemption, even if neither of the three realized it yet.

An ear-splitting roll of thunder boomed across the skies.

Then an explosion, a blinding white light that flashed across the whole continent, made the earth rumble and crack.

Somewhere in the Konoha Village, the picture frame with a tattered photo of Team Seven, Kakashi ruffling the hair of both boys- who were glaring at each other - with his one visible eye curved in an unmistakable grin, and Sakura with a happy smile in the middle - teetered to the edge of the table, fell, and broke.

The rain, the long, heavy downpour, came to a halt.


Author's notes:

...and there you go. Its not very often I try to attempt fighting scenes, because I plainly suck at it. So I wouldn't give it too much a doubt that what I had just done doesn't look good. If you haven't figured it out yet, the lyrics used comes from the song, "Requiem". Which was why I said to play it. Which I hope you did.

Title of the story will remain unconfirmed, and I will still be open to suggestions.

I'm looking to create a somewhat thought-provoking story. Deep, serious, and of course, angsty. If I succeeded, I will be happy. You are welcome to find your own conclusions, because while I will answer some questions you may have, I won't answer some of them, either. Some of them are just meant for your own speculation and implication, so me giving out anything will just ruin this piece of story.

Comments, critiques, questions and flames welcomed.

I advice for the second. :P