Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, because I'm pretty sure that if I had it my way, Naruto would have had a demon snake inside of him or some kind of reptile, not a fox (avoids kunai thrown by rabid Kyuubi-fans). Sorry, I love the furball to death, but I like snakes too. That's why Orochimaru irks me so much sometimes; he gives snakes a bad rep...anyway, enough ranting, eh?
Chapter Three: Recover
The sun was rising as four figures bounded through the treetops of the southern border of Fire Country. They were weary, and had been traveling for about six hours nonstop, excluding the occasional pitstop for a quick five minute break.
"How much further?" asked a female in a white, coat tailed shirt, carrying a large scroll on her back. The older man in the front with spiked, mane like hair of the color white turned to look over his shoulder.
"About twenty minutes or so. We're making good time, and hopefully Kakashi will still be there with any survivors." replied the Toad Sannin, who had been found by the other three in the group.
"Jiraiya-sama, do you think that Kakashi's...?" asked the medic nin of the group, Shizune.
Jiraiya gave her a shake of his head, "The guy may be lazy and unmotivated much of the time, but he's not one of the best Jonin in the shinobi nations for nothing."
The green-suited taijutsu specialist of the group gave his portion of agreement, "Jiraiya-sama is right, Shizune-san. Kakashi-sensei is a talented ninja, and that is why Gai-sensei saw him as such a great and worthy rival..."
Tenten looked to her teammate, and as of now, only remaining link to a family. Neji was killed defending Hinata and Hanabi, and Gai-sensei had been lost in an explosion, and they never got a chance to see if he was alive. Shizune had found them in the midst of all the chaos, and they decided to leave with what they had. Jiraiya had been assumed dead, but they found the Sannin resting in a small thicket outside of Konoha's borders. Shizune gave him a quick treatment with her skilled medical abilities, and the four headed off to a destination that Jiraiya knew about.
It hadn't been easy for the two Chunin of the group, especially when Lee never got a chance to try and look for his idol and teacher, along with the fact that his rival and friend, Neji Hyuuga, was dead. Tenten wasn't feeling much better, since she lost two close friends...well, Neji had been a bit more to her, but she never told him.
Tenten felt a tear roll down her cheek, and she brushed it away. She should be thankful she was alive, and that she still had her teammate Lee with her. Lee had swore that he would protect her with his very life after they left, and Tenten found comfort in this. Even after all the horror they had witnessed, Lee could still force a smile on his face. He was trying to be strong, so she should do the same for him.
Shizune, for a lack of a better word, was withdrawn. She lost her friend and closest person to a relative. Tsunade had told her to run while she was fighting off the infected, and try and make it to Suna if possible, stating that they were dealing with the problem much better. Shizune had debated, that is until the flaming ceiling in the Hokae Tower collapsed, seperating the two. Shizune knew that Tsunade was either dead...or worse. She cried, that is until she felt unbridled anger surge through her. After that moment of sorrow, she became a merciless killer. Any and all infected who had jumped at her were met with noxious poison fumes, or a spray of senbon. She found the two younger Chunin fighting there way to the exit, and decided right then and there that she would protect them from harm, in hope that perhaps she could redeem herself for not saving her mentor.
Jiraiya had become the leader of this group the minute he was found. He had a deep gash in his chest, but was lucky never bitten. He had relied on a Fire Technique to incinerate his enemies while he escaped, never thinking about the fact that his former teammate and lifelong friend had just been killed in an eruption of explosive tags. Only after he saw Shizune did he feel the emotions hit him, and quietly asked to be left alone for a few minutes while he let out the tears he didn't think he would ever shed. Deep down, the man knew he never would have been anything more with the blonde woman that he had known for so long, yet it didn't keep him from dreaming. No she was gone. He never thought he would outlive her. She even bet that the sly old man would find a way to outlive her somehow, despite the fact that he lead a more adventurous life than she ever did.
Looks like she finally won a bet after all...
"Looks like we're about two miles away from the meeting point. You three be ready for anything, got it?" spoke the Sannin. A nod was all he recieved from the three.
'Naruto...you better be alive and unharmed...we would be in a load of trouble if you became one of them with the Kyuubi inside of you..." thought the older man as they continued forward.
Sakura sat next to Naruto as the others were all sitting away from the two. Aside from Kakashi, Iruka, Anko, Moegi, and Hinata, the other group members were rather wary of her. She couldn't blame them, and at least took comfort in the fact that they accepted her into the group. Kiba was leery around her, but only out of instinct. Hinata had asked her several times if she felt well, and Sakura stated that she was healthy as usual...considering that now she fed upon her teammate's blood now.
She took another bite out of her ration bar, and felt the bland flavored food go down her throat. She relished in the fact that she could still eat like a regular human...well, she still was human. Kakashi had even apologized after the rather quick interrogation he gave the pink-haired girl and to her surprise, gave her a hug. She cried into his shoulders, and said she was scared of what was happening to them. Of how she saw her best friend and rival Ino attack some innocent Genin as though it was a mere game. Ino had tried to have Sakura join her in the hunt, but Sakura, fearing for her sanity, said she was feeling ill at the moment. Ino, still having all her emotions, nodded with understanding, stating that it can be hard to get used to the 'feeling'. She had gave Sakura a quick hug, and said that she planned on remaining in Konoha until she was sure all the survivors were either hunted down, or 'changed'. It was disturbing to see her best friend act so casual about killing fellow shinobi, but was relieved that at least Ino still cared for her friends. She even promised that if she found Naruto that she would save him for her, believing Sakura would want to claim Naruto as her own.
"So, Forehead, you got bitten too?" Ino asked, wiping a some fresh blood from her chin as she got up from the body of a motionless Genin boy.
"I guess..." Sakura replied to the blonde.
Ino simply smiled, "Aw, don't worry about it. It's not as bad as you think. Besides, we're all still alive, not to mention we can still use chakra."
"R-right..." Sakura nodded, feeling unsure of her best friend's words.
Ino gave her a sad smile, "I was feeling the same way at first...then Chouji let me find him. He said his family was dead, and he needed help. I could only think of one way of helping him while keeping him alive at the same time. So, I attacked him, bit him...and he's happier now. We've got each other now."
Sakura gave her friend a smile, "Ino...thanks for being here for me. It's just...I don't think I can handle the whole blood drinking aspect of life now."
Ino sighed, "I don't exactly like it either...why do you think I only go after the fit and healthy shinobi around here? I mean, some of us are going after kids, but I for one will never do that unless desperation calls for it. If they can't defend themselves in any way against me, they aren't worth the effort."
Sakura nodded again, then a thought hit her, "I wonder if Naruto's okay..."
Ino gave the pink haired girl a surprised look, then gave her a grin with her new set of fanged canines, "Oh...so that's how it's been with you two. Well, if I see him, I'll bring him to you before anyone else takes a bite at him. I let you claim him as your...um...what's the word...ah, your 'eternal partner'."
Sakura almost seemed fearful as Ino said this, but realized that it was Ino's new way of showing her friendship...by not feeding on Naruto, "Thanks, Ino-pig."
Ino smiled again, "No problem, Billboard Brow. Now don't be a stranger, okay? In fact, in a few days we'll be hunting down the survivors in the surrounding area. If I find the ramen-loving knucklehead, I'll bring him to you, okay?"
Sakura nodded, then watched as Ino leapt off into the night, probably to find some helpless victim, and depending on their condition, kill them or let them join the infected. Sakura shuddered at the thought of how Ino took this so casually...then again, that was probably due to the fact that she was completely infected. Sakura somehow avoided the whole psychological change because she was skilled in medical jutsu. However, she was infected enough that she was among them.
Her thoughts eventually drifted to the blonde haired boy that she had been worrying about for the last twelve hours since she had been bitten. Truth was...she really didn't want him to be found by anyone but herself. She wondered why this was, but blew it off. She decided to head back to her destroyed home, gather whatever possessions may have survived the damage to the house, and leave for Naruto's home. She would decide what to do after that.
"Naruto...I need you now more than ever..." she whispered as she ignored the pain in her stomach that demanded sustenance in the form of blood. She was worried about what would happen if she met up with Naruto...would she be able to control the hunger? She had no clue?
Sakura thought about that. She did feel a bit...possessive around the blonde. That was the main reason why she went immediately to the Jinchuriki's house after gathering her things. She did feel a need to be with him. She couldn't understand it at first, Ino said that the kunoichi seemed to be that way. She had Chouji, for example. Chouji still was the eating machine as usual, but now he had a diet consisting of two pints of blood every seven hours as well.
The pink-haired kunoichi sighed, and felt her companions' eyes fall on her. They were obviously a bit unsure of her, but they were able to accept her as part of the team, seeing as she didn't lunge in for the kill whenever they came near to her. Sakura knew it would take time, but she was determined to regain full trust in her friends. They were all she had left.
Anko and Hanabi jumped down from the treetops, each with a look of relief and possible happiness. Anko decided to speak, "We've spotted four others coming this way! I think Jiraiya is one of them."
Naruto was first to respond, "P-Pery Sage is alive?!"
"Easy, Naruto...they could be infected." Kakashi spoke, and got up, "Now then, everyone to your spots. If they show any signs of infection, we take them out...understood?"
A murmer of agreement was made amongst the group.
Moments passed, and suddenly four figures arrived at the clearing where a campfire had been put out (recently too, Jiraiya thought). He looked around, and smiled, "Shizune, Lee, Tenten, drop your weapons. It seems our group wants proof that we're uninfected."
They all did as told, and a moment later, the group of twelve shinobi appeared around them, weapons at ready. The voice of a certain masked Jonin spoke up, "Jiraiya-sama...are you and the others all right?"
The Sannin gave the younger man a nod, "We're all untouched by the virus, and lucky to be alive. We never sensed anyone following us, so we seem to be okay. I set up traps along the way just in case. How many hours do we have until we leave?"
Asuma decided to respond, "Well, I guess we could leave in four hours if you four wish to rest for awhile. Not much more than that though."
Jiraiya nodded, then noticed a certain orange clothed Genin amongst the group members, "Naruto...I thought you'd make it. Sakura too...good."
Kakashi decided to speak, "Actually...I think we need to tell you four a few things regarding both Sakura and Naruto...seeing as it will clear up any questions about the two later on."
Jiraiya looked from the Jonin man to Naruto, then to Sakura, and stopped upon looking at her eyes.
Her pupils were almost like slits...and he could faintly see a pair of fangs behind her upper lip.
Nothing else aside from that though, which was odd. No sharpened nails, no striking change in chakra signature from either of them.
"I see...very well then. We've got some time." spoke the Toad Sage.
"Naruto...I think you should start off first by telling Tenten and Lee about your tenant." Kakashi spoke, and the blonde gave his former teacher a sad smile. He hoped they would be as accepting of him as the others had...
Sakura and Naruto were relieved to see that the four were able to take in the information so well. Naruto was surprised when Tenten gave him a hug after he briefly explained about how he held the Kyuubi. She shed a few tears and then said, "So that's why you've had it so rough...Neji was right, you are the strongest person we've ever known." Lee simply stated that no demon would truly be as youthful as Naruto was, and that if Tenten-chan was able to see him as the boy he really was, then he was no exception. Lee then gave Naruto his nice guy pose. Overall, the responses from his friends had been shock, surprise, and saddness. No one aimed any hate at him, and if they were angry with him, they didn't let it show.
Sakura was surprised when the four newcomers each gave her sad nod. Probably because they understood that she was going through difficult times, but was able to find some comfort in Naruto. She gave them her word that she would tell them ahead of time if anything bad was going to happen with her. As long as Naruto was around her, they were all going to be safe.
After a brief rest, the group of sixteen ninja left the campsite, and left no trace of ever having been there. The group was made up of: Kakashi Hatake, Asuma Sarutobi, Shikamaru Nara, Anko Mitarashi, Hinata and Hanabi Hyuuga, Kiba and Hana Inuzuka, Moegi, Iruka Umino, Naruto Uzumaki, Sakura Haruno, Shizune, Rock Lee, Tenten, and Jiraiya. Together, these sixteen Leaf nin had one word on their minds...
Gaara looked over a rooftop of the Kazekage mansion with a expressionless face. The sun indicated that it was close to two o' clock or so. He was asking for trouble standing outside at this time. However, standing out here proved to be much better for spotting trouble than from inside a building.
Suna had for the most part, found a way to isolate itself from the infected. The wall around the village was thick and high enough that any encroaching forces could be wiped out before they reached the inside. Gaara wasn't willing to take risks, and was comforted that the village itself could last for months on its food and water supply.
The occasional scream from an infected ran through his ears, but it was immediately cut off by some weapon of some sort. The shinobi of the Sand wouldn't be taken that easily.
"Gaara, we've got a group of infected heading this way from the north." came the voice of his eldest sibling and only sister, Temari.
"How many?" Gaara asked without turning to face her.
"Our scouts reported about thirty or so, mostly that of Chunin and Special Jonin...some are from other countries it seems..." Temari replied.
"I assume that some are from Earth Country, seeing as they're from the north." Gaara stated as he turned to face his sister. She merely nodded.
Gaara lifted a hand, and a cloud of sand formed underneath the two as he floated towards the northern part of Suna. If he had been informed of this, then it probably meant that the infected shinobi could cause possible danger to the guards.
As the two landed, two Sand Jonin ran up to Gaara, "Kazekage-sama, the group is heading this way...and rather slowly for that matter. It seems they're simply walking." spoke one of the ninja.
Gaara looked towards the north and noticed the faint outline of a group of people heading towards the village. He nodded, and turned to the Jonin, "Tell the other guards to remain at their posts. This could be a trap, and the infected north of here may very well be a diversion. I'll see what I can do about them in the meantime."
The Jonin bowed, and jumped off to report the news to the others. Gaara looked towards the horizon again, and closed his eyes, "There's more coming from the southeast...this was planned. I can probably take out one of the groups, but we'll need about twenty or so Jonin to cover the southern end of Suna." he paused then looked to Temari.
"I'll go get some forces ready." she replied.
"Temari." Gaara said, stopping Temari as she prepared to head back to the village interior.
"What's up Gaara?"
"Be careful..." Gaara said with a hint of concern. Temari gave him a soft smile, nodded, and jumped off to recruit the necessary number of shinobi needed for guarding the southern area.
The remaining shinobi looked to his leader, "Kazekage-sama?"
Gaara turned to the man, who appeared to be no more than two years his senior, "Do you have a family?"
The man nodded, "My sister and mother managed to survive the first attack...otherwise everyone else is dead that was in my family."
"You've been out here since before sunrise. Go home and rest, and spend time with your family. Just because we're going through hard times doesn't mean we can't enjoy time with our precious people."
The Jonin bowed, "Thank you, Kazekage-sama." The man then left quietly. Gaara turned to the approaching infected, who seemed to be only a little closer than before.
"Kankuro...I wish you were still here...but I promise that I won't fail this village. It's the least I could do to honor your sacrifice for all of us..." Gaara said as a small frown formed on his face.
Gaara had tried to stop Kankuro from going to the gates to fight off the infection, saying that it was suicide. Kankuro merely grinned, and said that he already knew that. It had been Suna's darkest hour, and about one hundred infected were trying to break into Suna. Gaara suddenly realized what Kankuro was planning to do as the puppet master attached explosive tags on every inch of his puppets.
"Kankuro...I order you to stop immediately." Gaara spoke to his older brother.
"Sorry, but I'm the older brother here, Gaara. I don't have to listen to you." Kankuro spoke, a sad smile on his face as he began to walk off to the battle at the gates.
The face painted Jonin smirked at his younger brother, "Gaara...I'm proud of you. You've really become a great Kazekage. However, sometimes a big brother has to help out his little brother when things get bad," Kankuro's smirk dissapeared, "Tell Temari that she was the best sister a guy could ever have, okay?"
Gaara nodded silently, and felt a very weird feeling in the corner of his eyes. He put a hand to his cheek and felt moisture.
"Hey, don't go crying now. I want to see you smile, okay? You don't do that too often, but it suits you." the older brother continued.
Gaara, now realizing that he could do nothing to stop his brother, nodded, then gave him a small smile, "Kankuro, you truly are a great brother as well as an honorable shinobi...I thank you."
Kankuro nodded, then walked up to the young Kazekage, "Take care of the village for me, and be there for Temari. She may act tough, but she's still our sister...and she needs to know she still has you, okay?"
Gaara forced back the tears, "R-right..."
Kankuro swung an arm around Gaara's shoulders, "You're a good man, Gaara. Mother would be proud of you..."
Gaara suddenly gave up, "I don't know if I can do this without you to help me."
Kankuro tightened his grip around Gaara's shoulders, "Don't say that. You'll be able to take good care of Suna...as soon as I take care of this."
Gaara was going to argue, but Kankuro decided to let go and walk towards the gate again. The puppet master turned to Gaara one last time and grinned, "Bye, Gaara. Make sure that my body is buried by our mother, okay?"
Gaara nodded as he stood there like a statue, the only thing showing signs of life being the few tears that ran down his face. Kankuro leapt away as he went to protect the village in the most efficient way possible; by destroying the enemies.
Gaara had never seen such an amazingly bright light in his entire life, and he had fought Deidara too. The explosion managed to take out about ninety percent of the infected, and the other ten percent were retreating as the shinobi attacked them relentlessly. Not a single Sand nin had been killed by Kankuro's attack either. Truly an honorable way to go for a shinobi.
Gaara looked at the infected, who were little more than a few yards from his sand's reach. He may no longer contain the Shukaku, but he was still a force that deserved to be reckoned with.
"They may still be human...but they are a threat to those important to me..." Gaara said as he launched his sand. They would be his vent for all the raging emotions, age and gender made no difference. He let the tears fall as he smashed through them like stone into glass. He no longer carried a gourd with him, so he never reused his sand, and prevented any infectiong from the blood that was caught within the tiny particles. That was to say that infection through such means was possible. As far as Gaara knew, bites were the only way to carry the virus.
It didn't matter either way, he wanted to let out his anger, and what better way to do it than by protecting the village you lead?
Sasuke sat under an overhang in a nearby cave. The rain hadn't let up at all today, and from what he guessed, it was close to nightime. He couldn't afford to stay in here much longer, especially considering that he saw a village nearby. It seemed untouched, but that didn't guarantee it would be safe through the night. He had bought a few things of food and some supplies. He wasn't about to try and make shelter anywhere, knowing that as long as he was in a shinobi nation or near one that he was in danger. He had changed directions and decided to take the western border of Fire Country after he heard from travelers that almost all port cities were experiencing catastrophe of one kind or another. He would be running a risk going between Wind and Fire Country, but risk wasn't new to the Uchiha.
As of right now, he was in the boundries of Rain territory. He wasn't keen on staying too long. The stories he heard about Hidden Rain's leader weren't comforting in the least.
That's when he saw it. Movement? He sinked into the shadows, and watched with his activated Sharingan. He was careful to hide his chakra since if they were infected shinobi he would be running the risk of detection.
Suddenly, a blonde haired man dropped from the tree, and seemed to be injured. He had a black cloak on with red cloud like patterns on it...
"Akatsuki...that's Deidara..." Sasuke said ever so quietly. He wouldn't attack, prefering to remain low given the land's current crisis. Also, Deidara didn't seem to be in any condition to fight back. His right arm was bleeding, and he seemed to be hagard. A distant scream made the blonde-haired nuke-nin curse. He ran into the cave, and was met with a sword pointing at his throat.
"Get out." Sasuke said, showing no emotion as he spoke. He didn't need a liability giving him extra trouble.
Deidara stopped, looked at the person in front of him, then spoke the first word that came to mind when he saw the three tomoe in Sasuke's eyes, "Uchiha."
Sasuke gave the man a grunt, "I said get out. I don't need you bringing any unwanted guests here."
Deidara frowned, "Believe me, if things were different, I would kill you right now. However, seeing as you're standing here alone, Otogakure's destroyed."
Sasuke simply nodded, and gave the man a glare, "I'm not here to talk, no leave before I kill you. I have enough issues with your organization as it is."
Deidara snorted, "Well, then today's your lucky day."
Sasuke frowned, "What are you talking about?"
Deidara seemed to smile with an almost satisfied look in his eyes. He looked around the cave, as though expecting someone to be listening in on their conversation. He leaned in, and uttered words that Sasuke never expected to hear...
"The organization is dead, Sasuke Uchiha."
end of Chapter 3- Dun dun duuuuuun! Mwahahaha! That's right! I destroyed them! All of them!!! Well, not really. Deidara's alive...and others are too...maybe. Ahem, yeah, I like making plot twists like that, then leaving you all hanging like that. I know, evil isn't it? Heheh, well, I hpe you enjoyed this chapter. The next one's going to be good, I guarantee it. Again, tell me what you think, and if you have any ideas or questions, I'll be happy to reply. Just keep these things in mind 1.) The infected are alive, not dead. 2.) Sakura is infected, but she is not as influenced as the others by here affliction. 3.) The infection spreads through bites, not scratches. 4.) The infected are as sentient as they were when they were normal. Ino was an example in that. 5.)This isn't going to be turned into a SakuraxSasuke. It will be a friendship, at best, if they ever meet.
Anyways, with that being said, I hope you keep reading this. Feedback is always a bonus, but I know not everyone who enjoys it reviews the story. I'll update soon!