Eight years since Sasuke left Konoha has seen dramatic changes to Konoha village. The village is protected by the unstoppable Shadow, a mysterious ninja who has taken countless lives for the Hokage.
Itachi/Naruto, Sasuke/Naruto (onesided)
This is set 8 years after Sasuke leaves Konoha... So the group are about 20-21.
The Closing Shadow
A group of rogue ninja stalked quietly through the dense forest. They needed to act soon if they were going to infiltrate Konoha village for their master. They had been given one mission, one they had to fulfil at all costs.
They looked out for the sign of ANBU squads who may have been alerted to their presence and constantly gripped weapons in their hands. There were five ninjas in the group. Two brown haired, one white haired, one blonde and one a deep black. The black haired man was obviously the leader. He signalled to the others and the group gathered tighter together. They had more than one reason to be cautious; not only were they wanted criminals, they had heard the alarming tales of Konoha's Shadow, a mysterious ninja who had no other job but to slaughter, or so it seemed.
What the group failed to remember was that the Shadow wasn't called a shadow for nothing. He operated best in dark places. Belatedly, the white haired man gasped and whispered, "Hikage," before he slumped to the floor, crimson blood gargling from his sliced throat.
The four remaining ninjas paled and backed into each other. Hands shaking, they faced what would ultimately be their death. Within ten seconds of the first death, one of the brown haired men and the blonde also slumped to the ground. The black haired man twisted his head this way and that, trying to get a lock on their target. Not only could he not find him, but his remaining partner cried out as a katana was plunged through his heart.
The man turned round to face the Hikage. A pair of eyes looked at him, reflecting his own face, revealing misery, pain and, most alarmingly, his fear. The black haired man hadn't felt fear since he was a child and now his eyes had betrayed him. Before the katana was plunged into his chest, the man noted that his murderer's eyes revealed nothing. They showed almost no colour, perhaps a watery light violet if any.
He managed to close his eyes just before he felt the tug of death call him. He was one of the countless numbers of rogue or threatening people that the Hikage had killed for Konoha and its people.
A dark shape proceeded to clear the five bodies from the clearing. He was unhappy that he hadn't been able to finish them off as cleanly as he hoped, but they were dead and the master's plan couldn't be fulfilled. Yet, anyway.
The man dragged two bodies, the brown haired men, behind him and carried the rest over his shoulders. Before he dumped them in the pit he had reached, he cut a lock of hair from each, tying them with chakra strings. He then took all personal items from the corpses and then cut out an eye from each body.
It was nasty work, but he had grown used to it by now and regarded it as regular procedure. He pocketed five eyeballs and drew a small swirl on each of the men's cold foreheads before kicking them into the pit. It was an unfortunate custom that he had grown accustomed to yet it was a warning to outsiders and also a way to prove his mission was completed. Not only was the Hikage ruthless, he was thorough; a combination of two deadly traits.
A grateful growl came from the pit. Various carnivorous animals appeared from caves dotted round the edge of the pit. Lions, tigers, wolves and bears each claimed one body until only the black haired corpse was left. The animals eyed it nervously then stalked back to their hiding places.
The Hikage closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. He nodded to the empty space, as if he was agreeing with the animals' choice. I wouldn't have wanted him if I had the choice. He paused and a dark, sinister voice broke through the silence in his mind.
Sighing, the man dropped into the pit and pulled back his mask. It was a simple black cloth with holes for his eyes and slits for breathing. It slid down his face revealing scarred cheeks and scruffy blonde hair.
Closing his eyes, the man performed a few hand seals and, after a few seconds, a large fox shimmered into existence next to him. It was the size of large wolf with canine teeth that were razor sharp. Red eyes regarded the man for a second before they turned to the body.
Without any hesitation, the fox began ripping apart the flesh and tugging on muscle. It crunched through bone and sinew happily, enjoying the food. He ate surprisingly quickly and sat down to clean his paws after a few minutes.
Naruto visibly relaxed, glad that the fox had finished. He knew that it was a necessity, he needed to eat and, as the part of him that was human no longer did, the fox part had to.
That had started five years ago, when he was 15; Naruto had come back to Konoha after training under Jiraiya. Tsunade had taken him aside after a quick report from both Jiraiya and him. She had enlisted him into ANBU, for reasons unknown. After a long week, she had abruptly called him to her office and talked over options with him.
She had given a choice he couldn't refuse: either he had to become a great weapon to Konoha or he would have his power sealed, which meant death because of the Kyūbi's enormous power. He had no choice but to accept. Amazingly, he didn't blame her for the choice. He had always known that Konohagakure's council would one day put a bill on his head. Luckily for him, this bill had turned out options and he seized the option of life.
He was then subject to severe training, which he was never going to forget and unlikely to share with anyone. When he had come back from this training, he had refused to eat and, due to the severity of the issue, his demon had separated itself from his body and formed its own body, almost.
What the fox truly was was a form of image. It appeared to be a fox but it was something darker. Something similar to chakra but, at the same time, more sinister and frightening than anything else. It was made of complex shadows that had been summoned from places that Naruto had encountered during his training.
Even though the fox appeared a single being, it was attached to Naruto, as they had bonded deeper during the secret training and now, both were required for Naruto to function properly. They did everything together and through each other. They were give equal power as Kyūbi realised that Naruto was the only way in which he could get what he desired; blood.
In return for unlimited power, Naruto gave Kyūbi the blood from his victims. The demon enjoyed the killing and, if he didn't, Naruto most likely would have died helplessly a long time ago.
Their bond went much deeper though, deeper than anyone could guess. The two had become close friends, if that's what it could be called. The only one each of them could trust would be the other and, if Kyūbi had been a separate person, the two would be inseparable anyway.
The demon turned its blood-red eyes to Naruto. It looked deep into his eyes and let his body break apart and be drawn through those eyes into the warm darkness it called home. As soon as the fox was inside him again, Naruto rubbed his stomach.
You wolf down your food. Can you at least be a little slower? If we're attacked it lies heavily and... Well you know that's when accidents happen, if my senses are occupied.
A silence followed, then a deep laugh.
If you ate yourself, you wouldn't need to waste energy summoning shadows for me. Then you could eat at your pace. Anyway, since when have you made mistakes?
Naruto knew the fox was right. Sighing, he lightly traced his seal through his black garments. He was clad in black trousers with flat black shoes. Covering his body was a thin black top covered with a deep black coat. The coat had buttons down to the waist where it stopped at the front. Two 'tails' of material hung just past his knees. It had been a gift from the Hokage when she had employed Naruto's services and he thanked her for it whenever he needed to keep a low profile.
He stared longingly at the stars and the moon, wishing he could be an innocent genin again, with nothing to fear. He missed being part of a team but, after Sasuke had left the village, Team 7 had been ripped apart and each of the members began training, each one under a member of the Sannin, a legendary group of ninjas.
A snap of a twig brought him back to the modern day. Someone thought they could sneak up on him.
Pretending to be oblivious, he walked along the edge of the pit. Before he had reached the nearest tree (about ten metres away from where he had been standing), someone jumped down from the pit-side.
Naruto narrowed his eyes and hastily shoved his black mask on. He hoped whoever it was hadn't seen him but, for precautions, he couldn't let this person get away. He closed his eyes, communicating to his fox.
When he opened his eyes, a fox was by his side, the same shadow fox that had eaten the body from earlier.
They were about to leap at their pursuer when the fox sniffed the air. He turned to Naruto.
It's that Hokage-woman's assistant.
The fox disappeared and Naruto relaxed. Only Tsunade, Shizune and Jiraiya knew his true identity. The rest of the village called the mysterious ninja Hikage or Shadow.
"Hikage, I was sent by Tsunade-sama to collect you. It seems you have a busy night tonight." She smiled.
"Thanks, Shizune. I was just finishing here anyway." He stalked over to where Shizune stood.
Together, they ran back to Konoha, Naruto full of apprehension and excitement. When they reached the Hokage tower, Naruto was surprised to see his former team member Sakura in mid-conversation with the Hokage.
Where he used to feel something for Sakura, he now admired how far she had come. She was an incredible medical-nin, possibly even better than Tsunade herself. He was glad that he had kept his mask on. If he had removed it, there would have been complications; the less people who knew his identity, the better.
Sakura looked up, confused, when the black-clad ninja entered. She had heard rumours of a black shadow, a ninja who protected Konoha no matter what, a ninja who had killed more people in the last few years than any ANBU member had in their career. She had found that statistic shocking but, now, when she looked at the man, she could feel amazing power radiating off him.
"Sakura, take a seat. You don't need to go." The man's head jerked up, as if this was the last thing he expected.
Frowning, Naruto was about to say something to Tsunade but Shizune beat him to it.
"Tsunade-sama... I thought you said..."
"Ignore what I said. This won't take long I'm sure Hikage won't mind Sakura being briefed of a few things he has to do before dawn. Am I right?"
Sakura noticed the man hadn't spoken yet. She wondered what his voice would be like, and if it revealed anything about his identity. Of course, in answer to Tsunade's question, he merely nodded and Sakura shuffled, annoyed, in her chair.
"Here are the files..." Tsunade handed over a thick pile of papers to the man. He stretched a tanned hand to grab them. Sakura noticed a red mark running the length of his hand and down onto his wrist.
"Tsunade-sama, he's hurt his hand. May I heal it? I mean, if he's to do something before dawn then he should be in good health, right?"
Tsunade smiled grimly. "He's not like you or I, Sakura. He'll keep going, just to achieve his goals."
Tsunade looked at Naruto from the corner of her eye. Using another skill he had 'picked up' during the unspoken training, he sent a message to her brain
Let her if she wants to. I know how annoyed she gets if she can't do something to help.
"Go on, Sakura."
Shocked, Sakura strode forward and took the tanned hand. She was surprised at how smooth it was, after all, a warrior's hand was usually scarred from countless battles. Was it that that made him so special?
She gathered the necessary chakra and went to heal the cut, only to find that it had vanished. There was only deep blood left in a jagged line where the cut used to be. She frowned then jumped when she heard laughter.
The man was laughing. It seemed he couldn't stop and he clutched his side with tears spilling out of the corners of his closed eyes.
Inside Naruto, Kyūbi was in a fit of madness. Naruto hadn't laughed in the past five years. He had barely smiled and now he had gone hysterical. He's finally cracked thought the fox, I'm going to have to take over now or they'll have to kill us.
When the laughter stopped, both Shizune and Tsunade froze. They recognised the change in the man before them and held their breath as deep purple-red eyes focused on them.
"You're not supposed to come out."
Sakura was puzzled. She had hardly felt a change in the atmosphere but people who knew what the Kyūbi-Naruto felt like could hardly forget it.
"That's nice. If you want to know, I had to stop him laughing. He... I mean I, haven't laughed in about five years. I was worried you'd kill me because you thought that I had finally snapped. God knows that's overdue."
Sakura's eyes widened a fraction. This voice was hauntingly familiar; it was deep and slightly husky. If the atmosphere wasn't so tense, she knew she would have found it extremely attractive.
The man's body shuddered and the man doubled over and clutched the desk.
"I told him not to eat so quickly but what does he bloody go and do...?" Naruto looked up and was momentarily surprised to see three people staring at him.
Coughing uncomfortably, he straightened up and looked down at the files he had managed to keep hold of.
"Now, your mission. To exterminate all twenty of those men. The casualties may rise above the allocated number, but try not to kill more that twenty. As usual bring something back." Tsunade pulled out a small wire box from under her desk.
Naruto, knowing the schedule, pulled out the five eyeballs he had taken earlier. Sakura recoiled in horror. Not only had this man killed but he had cut eyeballs out of his victims. He was truly a monstrous machine.
The man sighed and pulled off his long black cloak.
"Won't need this then."
Sakura's eyes ran over his muscular arms. The top ended just after his shoulder and it clung slightly to his body, due to the amount of muscle beneath the skin. She noticed a few more bloody lines on his arms where cuts and scratches had vanished. Before he turned, she caught sight of a blue tattoo of the ANBU inked into the muscular arm.
He dumped the bundle of material in front of Tsunade and nodded to her, Shizune and Sakura herself. Sakura forced herself to look into those eyes but, to her surprise, she saw a deep blue, with a hint of purple. As the man tore his gaze away, she felt that she was missing something extremely important.
Naruto took off, annoyed at his mistake. He knew Sakura would eventually recognise him, that's why he had planned not to look at her. His eyes were unique. No one else had eyes as blue as his used to be. Now they had become even more unique, if possible. They were still the deep blue but something in them, the purple from Kyūbi's red eyes, hinted at unimaginable power and an almost animalistic power behind them.
Naruto ran through the almost-deserted streets of Konoha unnoticed in the shadows. He pushed all thoughts of humanity from his mind and focused on Kyūbi's words. Together, they ran to face their challenge.
Naruto stumbled into Tsunade's office. She wasn't there, of course, she expected him in the morning, well rested and satisfied with the job.
He was far from satisfied. He was covered in numerous wounds from the surprise attack. It had been almost two hundred shinobi against him, but Naruto had managed to kill almost all. Only a few had managed to escape.
He gasped as he lay down on the chairs Sakura had occupied earlier. Weapons of all kinds dug deeper into his side as he put his weight on it. He was too tired to care.
He took the mask off, throwing it to the floor. His top followed, landing untidily on top of the mask. He left the trousers and shoes; it hurt to bend over.
He closed his sore eyes, wishing the equally exhausted fox a good night. He slept restlessly, shifting slightly and sending waves of pain through his body. He didn't once open his eyes, until the door banged open and an angry Tsunade stormed in.
She slammed the door, a noise which made Naruto's head throb. He gingerly opened an eye, only to see Tsunade's back. She still hadn't noticed the blonde man lying broken on her chairs.
He groaned as he attempted to get up. Tsunade whipped round, eyes blazing.
"Who the hell... Oh my god..." She rushed over to his bloody side.
"What the hell happened?" Her eyes were overcast with worry. Before she started removing the weapons from his half-healed body, she rushed to the door and locked it.
She set to work at once, ignoring the pained moans of the young man under her hands.
"I know Naruto, I know it hurts. Please, please just bear it a little longer. And you, Kyūbi, please. I've never really regarded you as anything but now, I realise how important you are for Naruto. Please, stay with us."
Beneath her, Naruto's arms twitched. Tsunade removed the last object from his side and healed a few of the major injuries. Naruto had to heal the rest; it was something not even she would be able to do for him, for neither of them would forgive her.
He fell into a deep sleep and Tsunade grabbed a blanket from the cover. She covered him and admired his face. No other word could describe him. He was beautiful.
She was usually the only one who saw his face nowadays. He hadn't walked openly mask less through Konoha for five years now. Tsunade had told his former friends he had gone to train, touring the Hidden Villages and completing training schedules she had set him. She knew this lie couldn't go on forever, but what could she tell them.
Oh, by the way, you know your friend Naruto? Yeah well he's actually the genius assassin Hikage. Yeah surprised?
She snorted with laughter then turned to her desk. It would be hard to concentrate. She thought of Naruto as a brother, if not a son. When she had given him her cherished necklace, she had entrusted her hopes and dreams into the boy and now, singlehandedly, she had condemned him.
It was around midday when Naruto finally opened his sleep-crusted eyes. He was confused at first, wondering where he was, then he remembered. He inspected his body and found almost-healed cuts.
He felt someone else in the room and he sat up. He relaxed as he saw Tsunade smiling at him.
"Thank goodness, you're awake." He suddenly felt the breath knocked out of his chest. He was startled to feel a body hugging his. He hugged back, grateful for the first positive human interaction in five years.
"Five years is a long time for a hug," Naruto choked out.
Tsunade released him, eyes filled with tears of relief. She returned to her desk and chucked some clothes to Naruto. They were bigger than his usual black clothes. The top was loose fitting and baggy, even over his muscular frame. It was black; as were the shoes he was given. Instead of black trousers though, he shoved on a pair of baggy jeans. He didn't bother to hide his body from the Hokage; he was still too tired to care.
"I'm giving you a few weeks off. Think of it as a holiday. Now go home and rest."
Naruto smiled a true, beautiful smile.
"I see the importance of the loose clothes."
Tsunade nodded. "No one is to know just how much you've developed. If they knew, it would be problematic. Oh and one more thing, here's a bandage for your arm. For the ANBU tattoo that is."
Naruto nodded and wrapped his bicep up in the thin bandage.
"So, I've been training for five years now have I?"
Tsunade nodded and then, he was gone.
It would have been an impressive exit. If he hadn't left his stuff behind. Sheepishly, a blonde head poked itself round the doorframe.
"Idiot. Oh by the way, the Jōnin exam's in three weeks. I'm adding you to the list." She met his confused look. "The old Naruto would've wanted to. We have to keep suspicions away from you Naruto. This is why you're to participate in the exam. Anyway, part of this year's will be teamwork and Team 7 has been missing a member for two years now."
Naruto frowned. That meant...
"He came back?"
"Yeah. Orochimaru gave up on him after he escaped for the hundredth time. Funny really. I'm surprised you didn't know after all it's practically your skills that got him back. With your help, the ANBU teams located the bases. Anyways, he's back and so are you... for now. For them to take place, they need another team member and that just so happens to be you, Uzumaki. Now go quickly, I bet you're hungry."
Her eyes widened as she realised what she had said.
"'S ok. Kyūbi'll want something. But now I'm in the village he can't come out can he? Well... I'll try and eat. I'll work something out. See you soon Old Hag."
Previously Tsunade would have beaten the boy senseless for this name but now she was glad to have the carefree Naruto back, even if it was only for a while.
Thank you for reading, reviews are always appreciated.