Dislcaimer: I don't own anything native to the Naruto world.
A/N: My second fic! This is a NaruSaku. This takes place at the ending of Naruto and Gaara's battle in the forest during the chunin exams. What if the rest of Konoha had not won the battle? The Sandaime Hokage failed to seal Orochimaru's arms? How much of the world would be changed without the leaf village? Naruto and Sakura are left alone, in the dark about the fates of their friends and family. My newest idea, and a darker twist on the Naruto world.
The rumblings of the earth finally stopped as the hulking mass of the Shukaku melted away, forming large sand deposits in the forest landscape. Heavy smoke filled the air obscuring all visibility for a time – a result of the giant frog Naruto had somehow summoned vanishing. Coughing into his hand, his muscles screamed in complaint, Sasuke finally rose to his feet. His eyes scanned the area where the giant earthen monstrosity stood over the canopy moments before. Focusing at the treetops his eyes caught a distorted shape of orange. There he is! He watched as the figure leapt and clashed with his red haired opponent, knocking him to the ground.
The soft sound alike that of an hourglass pouring its contents, alerted him, and he quickly jerked around. A small pile of the fine sand was gathered at the bottom of the trunk of a large tree, and he glanced upward at the source. The disfigured appendage that pinned Sakura to the tree was rapidly dissipating. Despite aching muscles, Sasuke leapt catching his pink-haired teammate before she collided with the ground. Naruto may need help. He set her on the ground carefully, turning to the small dog that accompanied Sakura and Naruto and shared in witnessing the spectacular fight only moments before. "Watch her!"
Ignoring the pain and soreness that raged through his system, the raven-haired shinobi dashed along the ground of the trees, and with a burst of speed reached a small clearing where Naruto was crawling on his belly toward his opponent. He is STILL fighting? If he was accustomed to showing emotion, he may have gasped at the sight of the brilliant blue of Naruto's eyes – they were slitted and held a determination he was not sure he'd ever witnessed before. But also in that hard gaze he saw a deep pain; he was all too familiar with. He knelt down and whispered to his friend who if he had not witnessed what he had done would of thought of him as pitifully crawling. "You can stop now, Naruto. Sakura's fine now. He must be out of chakra, too. Since the sand holding Sakura has released her."
"I see…." The blond muttered out and upon completion of his words, rested his head down. Sasuke knew he had endured great pain that fight, yet could only hide yet more surprise when Naruto's face took on a serene smile as he fell into a deep exhaustion induced slumber. Just what are you Naruto? The siblings of Gaara appeared in front of their younger brother protectively, tense and ready to fight. He heard Gaara's voice mutter something to his siblings causing them to relax and confusedly stare at him in wonder. Gathering their junior brother up, they stared at the two Konoha shinobi in awe before quickly departing.
Sasuke slung his teammate over his shoulder, and hauled him back to where he left Pakkun and Sakura. Much damage had been done to the trees, and he made slow progress walking on the ground with his heavy load. Much of the dirt had turned to mud, with many puddles of varying sizes marking the site of the powerful water jutsus of that gigantic frog. He deliberately avoided the many deposits of sand, mud, and water considerably slowing his pace. Finally, he reached the clearing where his fight with Gaara had first begun; he set down Naruto next to Sakura's slumbering form.
Pakkun moved over to the blond and questioned the young Uchiha. "Is he alright?"
Sasuke nodded, and looked toward where Konoha lay. Many of the trees had been uprooted or smashed altogether granting him visions of tall plumes of smoke off in the distance. "He's just reached his limit; he'll be ok after some rest. What in the world is happening?"
The pug sat quietly, staring over the unconscious forms of Naruto and Sakura. "The Sound and Sand villages have appeared to have allied and used the exams as cover for a combined assault. The leaf is strong though, and its shinobi will fight to the death to protect its people."
Sasuke sat quietly deep in thought. His mind was troubled at the turmoil of the day's events. His eyes traced over Naruto, and jealousy gripped at heart. Just what did you do? How did you get so strong? I'm the Uchiha!
The dog broke the still quiet. "I would not have believed Naruto could fight like that if I hadn't seen it myself. That boy is the most surprising ninja I have ever met."
Sasuke grit his teeth, and nodded solemnly. He counted slowly in his head, and gripped one hand over the burning pain in the side of his neck. Trying vainly to repress the bitter resentment he shouldn't be feeling over his friend that just saved all of their lives.
Pakkun sensed something was troubling the young Uchiha, but not what. "Can you move well yet? Good, I will go seek out Kakashi, and tell him that his team is safe. I'll also find out how the fighting is going in the village and return to you." The small dog was about to depart when Sakura let out a soft whimper, and stirred. She leaned up, coughing hard and wincing holding her chest with one arm.
Groggily she opened her eyes taking in her surroundings before mumbling. "Sasuke-kun? You're ok!" She sat up quickly, and grimaced in pain, lying back down. She noticed Naruto laying beside her, his only movement the slow rising and falling of his chest. "Thanks… you saved us from the sand again, right?"
He looked away. Anger and jealousy bubbled within him at the searing pain in his neck and across the surface of his skin. "No." She made a questioning sound. "Naruto saved you."
She looked positively confused and giggled slightly. "Now, now, Sasuke-kun, you don't need to be so modest! It's true Naruto has gotten stronger, but he can't --"
Sasuke stared at her incredulously. She was completely unaware of the insult she had just thrown at him. His voice grew cold and distant, as he looked at the sleeping blond. "It's true." A brief silence he considered his words. He fought with everything he had to save you. He even showed powers he's never shown before."
The girl looked positively confused. Addressing the question to no one in particular she asked casually looking at the unconscious Naruto, "He did? ... For me?"
Pakkun who was sitting quietly beside them answered, "Yes, it's true. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't saw it. Naruto fought Gaara's monster form with only his own power… You have a good friend in him" Her eyes widened as she lay back considering the information. A fond smile formed on her face.
The dog continued, standing to his feet. "Now, I will go find Kakashi and get the status of the village. I will be back as soon as I can. You three should get rest for now. Do not move about too much!" The brown dog then scampered out of the clearing into the trees back toward the coliseum.
The usual lush and full canopy of the forests surrounding Konoha was in a tattered state, reflecting but a shadow of its former splendor. The forest suffered as the latest battlefield for the gargantuan Shukaku and Gamabunta; branches lay scattered about, trunks were shorn and splintered about the muddy ground from the excess water consumed during the battle, and a twisted cacophony of twisted, mangled and burnt leaves fluttered in the wind and blanketed the ground. Pakkun scurried through the broken wood back toward the village of Konoha.
Giving tentative sniffs at the air, the small pug attempted to analyze the plethora of scents determining where nearby humans may be. He could not be sure whether he'd run into friend or foe, but caution was his only ally. It's no good; there are too many scents to discern from. His nose only caught the smells of burning wood and both fresh and drying blood. The distance smell of dank smoke overwhelmed his acute sense of smell.
Reaching further into the forest, the damage of the trees considerably waned. That's a relief, not all of the forest is devastated. The pug continued through the more pristine brush rapidly approaching his master's village. The tangled trees at the edge of the copse of wood were all that blocked his view, and as he leapt clearing the greenery not even witnessing the jinchuurikies' titanic battle could prepare him for what he saw next.
He slowly walked wide eyed through the eerily still streets. Fires raged throughout the town, and scorch marks covered the road and piles of debris. What used to be tall and fair Konoha architecture were now little more than disorganized rubble. The streets were rent with damage, from giant ditches caused by huge beasts and the fires of intense battle. Where buildings collapsed and were thrown about, as if they were but toy building blocks a child would use – crushed and strewn across the streets in a temper tantrum.
The dead lay about everywhere, many men and some women – struck down in their prime. Those with faces held cold death masks of expressions ranging from pure feat to utter denial of what was happening to them. The pale corpses lay about, some burned or dismembered that he could scarcely put together that they were once human. Among the dead that littered the streets, many wore the garb of the Sound and Sand attackers. However, the vast majority wore the vestments of the leaf, recognizable only as tattered green vests and the occasional forehead protectors laying about pierced and hacked torsos. This is terrible! Some fighting still range far in the distance, and Pakkun prayed that the loss of life would not climb much higher this day.
He knew the women and children would be scattered in special safe areas, with the highest guards – the chief of with would be the Hokage mountain, which loomed over the burning and ruined town still vigilant. I have to reach Kakashi. The dog scurried through the outskirts of the town, refusing to use his sensitive nose over the overwhelming scent of burnt flesh and death.
His pace was interrupted as the earth shook and roared. He stared up at the great Hokage Mountain; the faces of the legendary leaders of the Leaf became distorted and cracked, as giant explosions rocked the landscape. Rubble began to pour down from the mountain; pieces of the faces that watched over the village were now ironically crushing it. The villagers! Soon the ground finally stopped heaving against his shaky feet. Rocks still tumbled down burying the many houses below. Then all was still save the dust and smoke of the devastated mountain. I can't do anything for them! Fear rose in the small dog, would anyone survive this attack? Were the people hiding in the mountain ok? He hadn't seen any living beings since he entered the village. I fear the worst now…
The tall stadium walls towered ahead of him, the surface marred with scorch marks from what could only have been caused by a rain of fire and lightning. Smoke billowed out from the top of the stadium and the stench of death was thick in the air. All the spectators of the exams! He scrambled into a crack and began climbing the flight of stairs to the lower seats of the stands. Pakkun froze as he reached the entrance to the bleachers. So many men, women, and children – most of them civilians lay still in unnatural and limp positions. Blood dripped down the floors, and his insides churned when he realized that all of these people in this section would never move again; all of their throats had been cut.
The stunned dog stared at the ghastly sight, and eyes scanned the upper areas where he was originally summoned. All he could discern from his current vantage point were fast moving blurs both on the arena floor and upper spectator seats. The clashing sounds of metal rang and echoed across the amphitheater. Some ninja are alive and fighting still here! Pakkun did not notice the nin that approached behind him until he was on the receiving end of a powerful kick. The summoned dog spun into the wall, gasping for breath as he allowed himself to be unsummoned. Sasuke, Sakura, Naruto, Kakashi, I'm sorry but I cannot return to you. Live on!
Hours had passed, Sakura laid back quietly against the uncomfortable ground. Her chest hurt, and she began to wonder if she had bruised or cracked ribs. An intense pain would happen whenever she moved her upper half or something brushed against the left side of her chest. Sasuke sat quietly, staring off into space with a far away and cold look in his eye. She turned her head occasionally seeing the sleeping Naruto… who was smiling? She wasn't sure if she believed what she had heard yet… despite both Sasuke and Pakkun telling her. Naruto fought so hard... just for me? The thought echoed in her mind and she found herself unable to concentrate on much with the pulsing pain whenever she took too deep a breath.
The forest was eerily quiet still, where usually the sounds of wildlife could be heard throughout the forests of Fire Country. She could only get a small glimpse of her surroundings, seeing the great damage to the trees and an abundance of unexplained water still dripping down some branches and leaves over scattered dunes not native to the local landscape. What could have happened that caused the many sizable limb shaped craters and the giant tree trunks snapped in half her imagination couldn't begin to fathom. It's as if giant monsters ripped the area apart.
"He has been gone too long. I will go find help." Sasuke stood to his feet. She shivered seeing the black marks were still covering his skin in random blotches. Sakura had grown use to accustomed cold demeanor, but something about him seemed darker than usual. His voice was devoid of emotion, more so than usual. She couldn't explain why she felt he kept staring at Naruto with his eyes brimming with a burning anger. A feeling deep inside her screamed that something was off with her crush.
She struggled to lean on her arm, deciding it must have been from the fight with that monster. Another stab of pain went through her chest as she began to speak. "Will we be ok Sasuke-kun?"
He coolly nodded. "Just stay low, I don't think anyone is looking for us yet. If I see the sign of anyone approaching I will hurry back." She didn't even have time to reply as he dashed off.
She settled back feeling alone, except for the slow breathing of the orange clad nin to her side. Her body ached, and her mind was confused. Why were the Sound and Sand attacking us? The Sand were our allies! Is Naruto going to be ok? And why hasn't Pakkun returned… Is Kakashi-sensei still fighting at the arena? She whimpered again at the splitting headache, and huffed lying still flat on her back. She felt alone and afraid since Sasuke left and looked anxiously about at even the slightest sound – knowing that she would not be able to defend herself or Naruto.
She felt her insides leap when her comrade groaned and started to sit up. Despite the pain in her chest, she couldn't help but give a joyful yell at him. "Naruto! You're awake!"
He looked about, pushing himself to his knees, seeing her lay next to him looking at him he smiled widely, and she felt warm just basking in that grin. "Sakura-chan, you're ok! Where's Sasuke? Where's Gaara?"
She furrowed her brow, still laying back. "Sasuke-kun went to check out the village a few minutes ago. He said he'd be back soon. Pakkun left hours ago to do the same… I'm worried Naruto!"
He struggled to get to his feet; she couldn't remember seeing Naruto so exhausted before. "Sasuke will be ok. He can take care of himself. Are you hurt Sakura-chan?" He just woke up and he seems more worried about me than anything…
"My chest really hurts when I move… I think I may have cracked or bruised a rib or two." She said with a frown. He looked over her worriedly. "It's ok Naruto, it's nothing that serious, it'll just be very painful for a while. Naruto, what happened after I got… hit?"
He stared off into space over her. She couldn't help but wonder that he was trying to think of an excuse? She figured he would be bragging about beating Gaara and saving her, but he looked more troubled than anything. In a quiet and serious tone he began, "I just fought to protect my precious people. I showed Gaara that real strength comes from protecting those that you care about."
She pondered his words. Her first impression was to dismiss them as un-Naruto-like, but then maybe she just had never looked deeper into what her teammate really was before. She recalled the seriousness of his words in the forest of death, and his unbreakable will whenever danger presented itself to his team. His words to Neji came to mind as well. Maybe since he wasn't boasting about the win trying to gain her favor only showed that she truly hadn't seen underneath his carefree and goofy exterior. I really don't know the real Naruto yet do I?
She only tilted her head toward him in a slight nod, and couldn't stop herself from giving him a fond, shy smile. She chuckled inwardly when she saw him blush and stammer and turn away. Feeling more at peace now with Naruto awake, she slowly yawned and adjusted her back cautiously on the ground. "Naruto… I'm going to try to rest some. Mind keeping watch?"
"Don't worry Sakura-chan, I'll keep you safe! Believe it!" I have no doubt you will… thanks Naruto. She thought as she closed her eyes and allowed the exhaustion she felt take her into the world of slumber.
Jumping through the trees, Sasuke followed the path he had pursued Gaara on back to his village. He had to get away from Naruto. The seal as his neck had continued to pulse the entire time. He knew Sakura was aware of the seal and some of its purpose, and he did his utmost to hide it from her prying personality. The deep rooted anger in his heart was surfacing and his will to fight it was diminishing.
When he finally reached the village he had called home his eyes widened. The streets were torn, few buildings remained standing. Shinobi lay dead strung about like discarded dolls amidst the rubble and buildings. Their grim visages gave him startling flashbacks back to the night of the Uchiha massacre. He slowly walked through the street, passing the blank stares of faces – a scarce few he recognized seeing around the village on occasion. The memories of his family ate at his core. He looked skyward toward the great mountain. Where just earlier that day the stern faces of the Hokages looked over the village was now just a cracked and devastated cliff side.
Glancing about, he realized that the village could never recover from this. Almost no buildings remained standing; the many houses and shops crushed by falling rocks, giant beasts, or consumed by flames or other powerful ninjutsus. He stared emotionlessly across the desolate rubble. Looking upward he questioned how he could feel so detached from all of the death surrounding him. The stagnant smell of decay and carrion began to fill the air.
He walked through the wreckage toward the stadium, with no real final destination in mind. A cackling and cold laugher behind him caused him to wheel about and stare at its owner. The pale mug of Orochimaru stood before him. He could only recognize the man by those horrid evil eyes. Eyes that seek power. The thought echoed throughout his being.
"Kukuku, we meet again Sasuke-kun." The snake-sannin smiled grimly at him.
Sasuke looked into his yellow eyes. "You did this… you destroyed Konoha?"
"You're quite astute Sasuke-kun. But I have only just achieved one of my goals here this day. I now wish to offer you to become my apprentice. I can give you power that you cannot attain anywhere else."
Looking about the rubble, he identified the remnants of the Hokage building, the discarded sign lying on top of a charred pile. There is no one left here to train me. Memories of his brother and his hatred toward the man roared in his heart. The seal on his neck pulsed and the marks across his body glowed and felt aflame. "Foolish little brother, your hate isn't strong enough…" His brother's words echoed again in his mind, and he looked to the destroyer of his village. "You will give me power to beat Itachi?"
Orochimaru gave him a sinister smile, bowing before him. "You have my word, Uchiha Sasuke. Come with me and you will gain what you seek in killing your brother."
Something deep within his heart screamed for attention. A small concern for those that fought with him, his friends – one he began to think of as his best friend. From what I know about Orochimaru, he won't give up if I say no. If I return to Naruto and Sakura, he'll just kill them when he comes next. He thought carefully, and began to nod slowly. "Yes, I will go with you. Nothing but killing him matters. But, I ask that you give me a few hours of leave first."
The tall inhuman ninja smiled. "That's quite gutsy of you to request already, but I see no harm. You have three hours, I shall await you here." The raven-haired nin nodded softly, and headed back to where he left his teammates.
Shortly after, Kabuto landed next to his master. "You sure it's wise to let him leave without being watched, Orochimaru-sama?"
He only got an amused smile in reply. "Sasuke-kun will return. I am now his only option for the path he has chosen. I'll let him take care of whatever business he sees fit before we go." The silver haired medic nodded in acquiescence.
Sasuke soon found himself clambering through the damaged woods back to where he left his team. Reaching the clearing he saw Naruto was sitting upright, his back propped against a tree looking over a sleeping Sakura. "Sasuke, you're back!"
"Hn." He replied to the blond. "I came to tell you that Konoha is gone, destroyed by Orochimaru." Naruto gripped onto his pants tightly and stood up, his eyes alight with emotion.
"What! Destroyed? How can you say that with so straight a face? What do we do now Sasuke? Where's Kakashi-sensei?" He grunted at his emotional ex-teammate.
"Hn, I don't know where Kakashi or anyone else is. As for what you can do? I don't know. I came to tell you that the village is gone and that I am going to join Orochimaru. You and Sakura need to get on with your lives."
He was slightly startled when the blond catapulted from his seat lifting him by his shirt with one arm, his arm trembling. Anger filled his eyes. He growled out. "Sasuke-teme, how could you even joke about that? Joining the enemy who just destroyed our village?"
He merely shrugged at his friend not really caring that he was lifting him up. Then a fist collided into his face sending him sprawling to the ground. Naruto stood over him breathing heavily, his arms shaking. "You're not joking… why Sasuke? Why would you betray everyone like that? What about your friends"
Sasuke stood up and growled. Why doesn't the dolt understand, he'll just die if I stay"Betrayed? There's nothing left! My only goal is to kill my brother and now only Orochimaru can make that a reality. Bonds and friendship only make you weak. As of now I'm breaking all of those bonds!" Anger surged in him, and his skin felt aflame, the black blotches alighted like small fires that danced across his flesh. He reached out this time lifting Naruto by the cuff of his jacket. He could tell the blond was near exhausted to death from his earlier fight.
Tears began to sting his eyes. "You bastard… why would you turn your backs on us like that Sasuke? What could cause you to do this?"
"I acknowledge you're strong Naruto. But you know nothing of my pain. My entire family was killed by my brother, and he left me alive to be an avenger. It is my only purpose to kill him! How would you who never had a family understand?"
Naruto stared him in the eye. "I may not have ever had a family, but when I think of Iruka-sensei, I wonder if that's what it's like to have a father. And Sasuke! I thought of you as a brother."
Sasuke's grip loosened slightly – memories of his rivalry with Naruto. The good and bad times, and he smiled grimly letting out a cold chuckle. "I have to admit, that you've become my best friend Naruto." As soon as he uttered his words… memories of his brother sprung to the forefront of his mind, and the curse began to pulse. Foolish little brother, your hate is not strong enough! …You must kill your best friend… The darkness that began to chip away at his heart today had consumed his heart at more rapid rate since his meeting with the renegade sannin. The fierce pain in his neck only fueled his anger and lust for vengeance.
Holding Naruto up he began to charge a chidori in his right hand instinctively. I will have more power! The mangekyo is in my reach! Naruto stared at him as if he didn't know him. He cackled at his friend, "Good bye Naruto, it was fun!"
Sasuke pulled back his hand charged with electricity ready to strike. Tears fell from Naruto's eyes. "Sasuke, you're becoming what you hate so much." He began to thrust his hand forward. "Are you worse than your brother?" The words wrenched out of Naruto, and he spoiled his own aim impaling the left of his friend's chest from what would have instantly killed him. Letting him fall to the ground he stared. NO! I will get power my own way. I will not let my brother win.
Naruto fell to the ground a foot from Sakura unconscious, bleeding from the terrible chest wound. The small voice in the depth of his heart that respected his friends who fought with him had clawed its way to the top. "I will beat my brother, but I will get the power my own way. Thanks Naruto." You have your path, and I have mine. It's for your own good. The cold Uchiha then left his unconscious ex-teammates to their fates and left to meet with his new master.
A cool night breeze brought a sudden chill to the sleeping kunoichi. Sakura reflexively rubbed her arms together at the cold air. She slowly rose, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. Her ribs still had a dull ache, and she began to examine her surroundings. Looking at the sky she saw the stars and moon far overhead. How long have I been sleeping? Sasuke-kun should be back at least. Stifling a small yawn she looked about when she saw Naruto on the ground a foot away from her. He was in a twisted position, facing away from her. Adjusting her eyes to the darkness of the moonlight she noticed the grass below was stained a dark reddish brown. Is that blood? Snapping up, and groaning at the pain in her chest she crawled over to her friend, gasping at the gaping hole in the front of his jacket.
Crawling over his still form, she silently cursed the lack of light. What happened? Where's Sasuke? She checked his pulse; he was alive! She let out a relieved breath, whoever hurt him must of just ran off, which frankly made no sense. Who would deliver a wound like that and not finish the job? She was easy meat sleeping next to him too. Her insides knotted, unable to fit together what happened.
She gently rolled him upright, inspecting the wound. She winced at the jarring pain in her chest, but ignoring it. She pulled out some basic bandages and ointment she kept in her pouch. It was a deep wound, and should have killed him left open and bleeding. She looked closely, it appeared the skin had closed up some and cauterized itself. Both the jacket and his skin showed burn marks as if it was an electrical or fire based piercing attack.
Using a kunai she cut a circle out of his shirt around the wound. Then, Sakura began to apply ointment to ward off infection. She didn't have much in the line of proper bandages, but used the bit she had to put over the closing wound. What happened to you Naruto…? She shivered in the cold of the night. She was alone and cold, in the dark afraid. The last she saw her other friends and sensei a massive war was breaking out. She started to gently shake the blonde, whispering in his ear. "Naruto, wake up please!"
He stirred, groaning and opened his eyes. "Sakura-chan?"
"Naruto, what happened!?" His right hand reached toward his wound, and she batted the hand away. "Don't touch it, I just dressed it. Who did this to you Naruto?"
He remained silent, looking grim, a sadness in his sapphire eyes. Why would he hesitate in telling me? That wound… the only attack that could cause something like that… the chidori! Her insides turned to ice and she looked at Naruto. "It was Sasuke wasn't it?" She fought off tears threatening to form.
He didn't answer, just looking staring flat on his back at the moon beyond her. She pressed, "Naruto tell me."
He finally nodded, and she saw him cry for the first time. "Sakura-chan… he said Konoha is destroyed. He said there was nothing left. And that he was joining an Orochimaru?" A sob choked out of him. "He then said I was his best friend and used the chidori…" She burst into tears -- her world had been turned upside down, and wrapped her arms around the blond. Can that be true… he did seem so dark… the curse mark!
Then what Naruto first said took hold in her mind. Our home is destroyed? What about my family, our friends? Ignoring the pain in her ribs, she held him tightly and cried into his chest. "What are we going to do Naruto? Is our home really gone?" He lay still and slowly put an arm over her shoulder. She remained crying on him until the darkest hours of the night.
Cold and tired, they used Naruto's jacket as a makeshift blanket and the wounded ninjas huddled together for warmth. "You're all I have left…" She whispered as she finally let exhaustion claim her once again.
A/N: That's the beginning of "All I have Left" – let me know what you think so far. I may bump the rating up to mature, if people think its necessary (or maybe anyway in future if I choose to include more mature themes). Basically all 'canon' manga/anime elements as they happened are void or will be adapted to this plot. Some of the dialogue is straight from the anime (although in the Sasuke telling Sakura's case, in a different setting with slightly different results). The main example seen so far is Sasuke's defection and the meeting of Naruto and Sakura. I thought about having Sasuke travel along with the others, but decided it would fit his character (and I didn't think Orochimaru would allow him to leave freely if he won) to go where he felt is power. I know he has not been victim to Itachi's mangekyo, and his ego was not crushed as a result; but I think seeing the effects of the tragedy of Konoha and coming face to face with the snake-sannin is a comparable event.
Oh also, before people barrage me with "did so and so live" – you will only know what Naruto and Sakura know. And until they confirm the fate of someone, don't assume anything. SPOILER ALERT: Old man Sarutobi died ;(
The hardest part to write was the Naruto/Sasuke scene – it's based on VotE, but the major differences is; Naruto is very exhausted, doesn't go Kyuubi (which I don't think he would of in this scenario), and the dialogue is slightly different.
Still; I tried to grasp Sasuke's character at this point, being slowly corrupted by the seal and lust for revenge with his last vestiges of his heart bubbling out for his friends. Also, Sasuke will probably not be showing up again anytime soon (if at all, we'll see how far I go with this).
Finally, I'll be updating this probably about once a week - maybe more (perhaps more for the first few updates) maybe less. And I may be rewriting portions of this chapter I am not quite happy with yet. Enjoy and let me know what you think!