SUMMARY: Duty, honour and love clash with a thirst for vengeance when a decade old lie is finally revealed. How far would YOU go for love? NaruIta, one-sided SasuNaru, YAOI!
Naruto © Masashi Kishimoto Studio Pierrot TV Tokyo GAINAX Aniplex SME Visual Works Cartoon Network YTV (Canada) Viz Communications ShoPro Entertainment STUDIOPOLIS, Inc. Game One Kana Video Made In Europe Cartoon Network L.A. Xystus Artsound Mexico ABS-CBN Hero Mediaset Panini Video Italia Panini Video Cartoon Network L.A. (Brasil) Dublarte Shonen Jump (Japan) Shonen Jump (USA) Shueisha Glènat España Carlsen Comics Banzai! Japonica Polonica Fantastica (JPF) " Shonen Jump (Sweden)
All Fanfics created by Sandlewood (me) were written for the sole purpose of shared entertainment and not intended for publication or sale.
CHAPTER SUMMARY: In which the path leads onward.
It had been a stroke of unbelievable luck that he'd happened upon the old dilapidated farm and its lone occupant. It was bordering on miraculous that the old man had been a medic in his prime. Though his skills had been unused in more years than he wanted to admit to, Goro had managed to heal the worst of his injuries. The fact that very few questions had been asked was a definite bonus to the whole deal and though he didn't put much stock in so-called Fate, Goro had insisted that that was what had led him to his door in the first place. He wasn't about to argue in sight of his good fortune and chose to humour the old man and his odd beliefs. After all, he'd gotten a relatively decent home-cooked meal and a fully functional arm out of his impulsive decision to let the old man live despite his alarming questions during breakfast.
Possibly even more beneficial to his cause than the meal and healing had been the information Goro had provided, albeit unwittingly. Living in an isolated area, the old man took marked interest in the comings and goings of travelers so far off the main roads. Three days prior to his own arrival, Goro had seen a young man traveling alone...a young man whose description was remarkably similar to that of Uzumaki Naruto. The old man had watched from what he described as a safe distance as the lone traveler had been ambushed by what he thought to be a band of rogue-nins from nearby Iwa. Apparently there had been several attacks made on unwary travelers during the last several months. Though he hadn't wanted to appear too interested in what had become of the young man, he suspected that by merely asking Goro had already concluded that his own arrival a few shorts days after the incident was more than simple coincidence.
After hearing the old man's account of the brief battle and the traveler's defeat, he couldn't help but wonder if there could possibly be another shinobi who matched Naruto's description. His knowledge of the Kyuubi's container told him that he wouldn't be so easily defeated...and yet Goro insisted that the fight had been over almost before it began, the young man overpowered with what he called 'pathetic ease' and taken away, presumably as a prisoner to the bandit's hideout. None of it made sense to him...unless Tsunade-hime had been using Naruto as a decoy, in which case it would make complete sense considering how resilient Naruto was. Despite his rather alarming tendency to rush head long into battle with little or no thought to planning or strategy, the younger man was surprisingly adaptable. He didn't know if it was skill or sheer dumb luck that had kept Naruto alive thus far, but whatever the case he was certain that his situation was now quite dire. If the rogue-nins had captured him and kept him alive, there was only one explanation behind their actions. They obviously believed that Naruto possessed something they wanted and if he refused to give it up willingly, there was little doubt that they'd use force to obtain their goals. He seriously doubted that Naruto had been suitably prepared to withstand the likely treatment he'd be receiving while being held prisoner by the rogue Iwa-nins. Unless Akatsuki's spies were grossly misinformed as to their target's recent activities, Naruto had not received the proper training needed to prepare him for the eventuality of possible capture and interrogation at the hands of an enemy.
Whatever the circumstances surrounding his current situation, he had to locate Naruto before it was too late. Unfortunately, it was easier said than done; he had very little information to go on and locating the base of a group of rogue-nins was next to impossible with the limited information he had to work with. All he could do was find the place the brief battle had occurred at and try to track them from there. He could only hope the trail had not been obliterated during the three day interval by the unpredictable weather of the area. Though he was relatively proficient at tracking, his abilities were still lacking when compared to shinobi like Akatsuki's Zetsu and Konoha's Inuzuka clan who had specialized in those skills.
Crimson eyes scanned the rough terrain calmly, seeking out any tell-tale signs left from the three-day old battle field. Scuff marks, the partial print of a heel, scored bark left from blades on a few twisted and misshapen trees. Slowly, he followed the nearly invisible trail, alert to his surroundings and the unconcerned twitters of bird song drifting on the light breeze rustling through the leaves and tall grass. A broken branch, small bare patches of ground, and dried, flaking droplets of blood on rock led him towards the north-east. The reflection of sunlight off of metal drew his attention to a fragment of honed steel embedded in the trunk of a tree to his left, the remnant of a broken tip of a stray shuriken. A small scrap of cloth pinched between the jagged ends of a snapped twig, three ragged marks carved diagonally into the bark of a tree by a sharp-edged object, and finally, strikingly out of place, strands of blond hair clinging with fragile tenacity to a gently waving branch. The sun had crept across the sky and was making its rapid descent towards the horizon as he followed the barely discernable trail leading him onward, deeper into the harsh terrain of Iwa's borders.
That very little effort appeared to have been made to conceal the tracks he was currently following was suspicious in his mind. Either the rogue-nins were extremely sloppy or they just didn't care. If it was the former, then it was even more puzzling as to how shinobi of their skill had managed to over-power a Konoha-nin of Naruto's caliber. For all his impulsiveness, the younger man had been trained first by the Copy-nin, Hatake Kakashi, a shinobi of infamous renown, and later by Jiraiya, one of the Legendary Sannin. It was difficult to believe that with such a strong background that Naruto could have been so easily overpowered by such low-level shinobi. On the other hand, if they'd neglected to expend more effort in covering their tracks for the latter reason, then he could only conclude that the rogue-nins he was following had the strength and skill to back up their seeming arrogance. If this was the case, it could prove to be quite problematic for him. He was confident in his own skills, but he was, after all, only one man against an as of yet indeterminate number.
Light from the setting sun glinted off of something metallic wedged into a crevasse between a rock and a tree's roots, catching his attention. Before he could investigate further, the sudden stillness and silence of the birds alerted him to the rapidly approaching chakra of two unknown individuals. Quickly assessing the danger to being almost laughably low, he swiftly masked his own presence as he concealed himself within the shadows, watching the direction he'd sensed the chakra coming from with barely contained impatience. He didn't have time for delays. Crimson and black eyes narrowed as the faint sound of voices drew nearer.
"...such an idiot!" Two figures stopped an arm's length from where he stood, oblivious to his presence. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes at their less than exemplary display of skill basic to all shinobi. Even green Academy students showed more common sense than the two standing before him. "This is all your fault, y'know."
"My fault?! Hah! Right. You were there, too, so why didn't you do it?" The two men standing before him wore what could pass for ninja attire if he squinted just right and the light wasn't very good. In reality, they had the appearance of common rag-tag thugs. All in all, he wasn't impressed thus far.
"I was busy, in case you hadn't noticed." His gaze focused on the displayed hitai-ate, black tomoe rotating slowly in the growing dim lighting as he took in the scuffed metal plate and thread bare cloth holding the battered forehead protectors in place. The distinctive symbol representing Iwa was unmistakable, but it was the jagged line etched through the image of rocks that caught and held his attention. Crimson eyes narrowed further as the tomoe spun faster in his agitation. "I don't know what the big deal is anyway. It's not like anyone's coming after him."
"Idiot!" The taller of the two cuffed his partner on the back of his head. "He may've been working solo, but you saw his hitai-ate. Konoha will send someone after him. You can bet on it."
"Hard to imagine their Hokage would send someone like that on such an important mission." His hand clenched around the hilt of his kunai as he tensed in stealthy preparation, lip curling in disgust at the incompetence of the two supposed shinobi before him It was hardly worth the effort to kill them, but two less enemies to deal with later made it a necessity to do so.
"Yeah. Konoha must be getting weak if that's all they have to offer." Despite the situation, a part of him was inclined to agree. In the years since his departure from the village of his birth, he'd often thought the very same thing, though for very different reasons. It wasn't for lack of training or skilled shinobi that Konoha came across as weak. No...it was for their unrealistic ideals based purely on lies, deceit and pure stubborn refusal to acknowledge the reality behind being one of the five great shinobi villages.
"All he did was scream and flail about." A derisive snort punctuated the statement. "Blond idiot. Pathetic." That was all he needed to hear to know that the two men before him were, indeed, part of the group he was seeking. He'd be able to follow their back trail to their hideout and, hopefully, to Uzumaki Naruto.
Stepping out of the shadows, he allowed a small, amused smirk to curve his lips upwards when the rogue-nins turned to him wearing identical looks of comical surprise. "Pathetic." He repeated flatly, contempt clear in his crimson and black eyes. His arm swept out in a graceful arc, the two men dead before they could do more than gape stupidly at the blurred flash of moonlight glinting off of the honed edge of the kunai. He expertly stepped to the side, effectively avoiding the spray of arterial blood. He looked up at the dark sky, irritated by how much time had been wasted as he stood poised in the shadows listening to the two inept ninjas speak. Though his patience had, in the end, provided him with enough information to continue onward, the darkness would also work against him. Twin heavy thumps hitting the ground drew his attention downward again. Slowly kneeling, he wiped the bloody blade of his kunai on the clothes of the body closest to him before returning it to its previously concealed position. He began searching the bodies for any useful items without preamble.
Standing gracefully, he turned on his heel and swiftly melted into the darkness. He didn't know how much further he'd have to travel before he reached his goal, but he found himself hoping that it wouldn't be too far. Already he was beginning to feel the familiar hollow ache behind his eyes as the prolonged use of the Sharingan strained his eyes. He knew from experience that he only had a few short hours before the ache became sharp, piercing pains lancing through his skull. The migraines, unfortunately, were the price he payed for over-extending his use of his kekkai genkai. With any luck he would be able to complete his task first before the side-effects of the Sharingan took hold.
1, 997 words
Been far too long since my last update. --; Sorry! R/L really bites sometimes, y'know? What with having to deal with work, mother's doctor's appointments, and my ill-timed volunteering for hosting the dreaded Family Christmas Dinner, I haven't had much time to breathe, never mind write. Not a lot of time right now either, but I figured that since I was sick, I'd take advantage of having a little bit of time to myself.