The Truth Decays

By Marz

Chapter 3

"Ed! Hey Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed!" Naruto called as he ran down the street. "Sasuke? Where are you guys?"

He finally found Sasuke, sitting in the street, glaring at him. Naruto supposed he was just being a jerk and not answering. He was sure giving him a funny look.

"Hey Sasuke?" Naruto asked his teammate. "Have you seen Ed?"

Sasuke pointed with his left hand. His right arm looked funny and his face was a mess.

"Hey do you need help or something?" Naruto asked. "You look like you got your ass kicked."

Sasuke glared at him. "I'm fine. Go check on your friend. I think he's dead."

Naruto rushed to where Sasuke pointed. He saw Ed clearly then, with a knife sticking out of his chest, lying in a puddle of blood.

"Ed! Ed? Are you OK?" he shouted.

Ed's face was colorless and slack, but he was still breathing and his eyes were open a little bit. He didn't blink or anything when Naruto waved a hand in his face. Naruto went to pull the knife out but Master uber brows was suddenly there grabbing his wrist.

"If you pull it out, the bleeding will only get worse," the green Jonin warned.

"Then what do I do?" Naruto asked. He couldn't recall any of the medical lessons from the academy.

"Go help your teammate with his injuries," he said. "I will attempt to stabilize your friend enough to transport him to Konoha for medical treatment."


Maito Gai was having an odd sort of day. Then again things tended to go oddly whenever he did anything, though he usually wasn't aware of it. Earlier that day he'd seen his eternal rival, Hatake Kakashi struck down and left in a coma by the villainous Itachi Uchiha. Gai had sworn he'd protect his rival's students from that fate, or he would run to Wind country and back on his hands!

Gai shook he head and focused on the situation.

As the missing nin fled before lord Jiraiya, it seemed his promise was kept. Though a bit roughed up, Uchiha Sasuke was not seriously injured, broken ribs, a broken arm, perhaps a concussion. For a ninja that was nothing. Naruto was alright as well, despite his rather baffling attempt to take on an S-class ninja using fast food. But Gai did not think things would've come out so well, had this boy, Ed, not intervened.

Gai had managed to keep Naruto from making the situation worse, but there wasn't much Gai could do to make it better. He frowned at the blood as he inspected the stab wounds. Itachi had injured Ed, but hadn't bothered to kill him, that either meant the rouge Uchiha was getting sloppy, or he meant for Ed to survive. Gai hadn't been able to focus on Ed's fight with Itachi as much as he'd have liked too, but he knew Itachi had tried to use the Mangekyo sharingan on the boy, and Ed had shrugged it off.

He sliced through the vest and shirt, still going over how he was going to keep the knife from shifting while carrying the teenager back to the Village. He decided he should probably take off the armored gauntlet the teenager was wearing as well, but as he cut away more cloth, he saw it wasn't a gauntlet. To say Gai was stunned by what he saw was selling it a little short. He had noticed the boy's right arm and left leg moved rather stiffly. Gai was an expert in observation. It would be impossible not to notice something off about the boy's movement. But the articulation of the joints, range of motion, it was exactly what he'd expect from normal human limbs. But looking into the gap where the arm met the over lapping joints of the artificial shoulder, it was obvious the limbs contained no flesh and blood at all. It wasn't really relevant to the matter at hand, except it meant the boy had even less over-all blood volume than Gai had first estimated.

"What the hell is that?" Jiraiya asked, looking over his shoulder.

"I'm not sure," Gai said. "I've never seen metal grafted to flesh like this."

The teenager twitched and both shinobi saw the fingers of his metal hand move.

"Chakra strings maybe," Jiraiya muttered.

"We can worry about it later," Gai said. "Hold him upright for a moment."

"Do you have any blood pills or soldier pills?" Gai asked as he pressed a bandage to the boy's back and tied it down. "I can barely detect any chakra in his inner coils, and his heart's going to stop if I can't get his blood pressure up."

Jiraiya frowned. "My stuff's all back at the hotel. I'll see if the brats have anything."


Jiraiya rolled his eyes as he approached the genin. Naruto had been bound and gagged with a roll of bandages and Sasuke was wincingly attempting to set his own broken wrist. Jiraiya pulled the cloth out of Naruto's mouth.

"I was trying to help you, jerk!" he shouted at his teammate.

The Uchiha kid just grunted.

"Where did you find that other blondie?" Jiraiya asked Naruto.

He looked confused for a moment, and then his mouth opened in shock. Naruto tried to look around him to where Gai was prepping the other boy for transport.

"Is he gonna' be OK?" Naruto asked.

"I don't know," Jiraiya said. "If Gai gets him to Konoha in time, maybe. Do you know anything about him? Does he have family around here?"

"I don't know. I just saw him fixing stuff at this store and I was asking him how he did it and he bought me food and this is all my fault!" Naruto said. "Hey what are Akatsuki? Also why are you here? I thought you were following that woman who winked at you?"

"She was under a genjutsu. Itachi sent her my way as a distraction. I saw through it right away! I meant to draw them out so I could finish them off, but you wandered away from the hotel. Where were you going?"

"Hey I was just looking around! I didn't know people were coming to kidnap me! You could 'a said something!"

"I didn't want you to panic," Jiraiya said.

"Nobody ever tells me anything important!" Naruto pouted. "Nobody tells me people are trying to kill me! Nobody tells me Kakashi-sensei is hurt! Nobody even tells me that I've got a freaking de-"

Jiraiya clamped a hand over his mouth. "Nobody tells you these things because you can't keep from blurting them out."

Naruto's eyes widened as he realized his uninformed teammate was sitting right next to him.

"Why is Itachi after Naruto?" Sasuke asked.

Jiraiya frowned. "It's classified. Naruto, do you have any idea where that kid, Ed is from?"

"Uhhhhhhh…Maybe something in his bag will say," the orange boy said after a minute of pained thought.

"He must've dropped the bag during the fight," Jiraiya said. "See if you can find it. It might save his life," he added when Naruto looked like he was going to keep talking.

"Roger!" the boy said, saluting and scrambling off.

Soon Naruto was out of hearing range, poking through the rubble of damaged buildings and peering into trashcans where the missing bag could not possibly be.

"Give me your arm brat," Jiraiya said.

The Uchiha brat glared at him.

"It ain't gonna set itself," Jiraiya said.

The brat continued to glare.

"What is he?" Sasuke asked.

"Who?" Jiraiya asked, carefully directing a spike of killing intent at him.

Sasuke didn't back down. "Naruto."

"He's your teammate," Jiraiya said.

"So what does Itachi want from my teammate?" Sasuke asked.

"Something he's got no right to," Jiraiya said. "Leave it alone brat. This is something that will get you killed sooner rather than later if you keep nosing around."

"I found it!" Naruto shouted, trotting back up the street with at dusty messenger bag in his hands. He flipped it open and riffled around. "I don't see any medicine in here or anything."

"Let me see," Jiraiya said.

He dumped the contents of the bag in the street. There were a few sets of socks and underwear, a change of clothes, a hair brush, a small case of toiletries, a wallet, some notebooks, a package of cookies and a big silver pocket watch. The I.D in the wallet was a well made forgery. It looked perfect but there wasn't any chakra in the seal on it. It claimed the teenager was from Tanzuka if that meant anything. The notebooks were filled with a strange loopy script Jiraiya had never seen before, and a lot of diagrams that might look something like seals if one were to squint at them very hard. The watch was welded shut.

"Does any of that help?" Naruto asked.

"Not right now," Jiraiya said.

"Well what else can I do?" Naruto asked.

"Nothing, kid," Jiraiya said. "You just have to hope Gai's fast enough and your friend is tough enough."

"But this is my fault!" Naruto said. "He wouldn't have been in trouble at all if he wasn't hanging around with me! I have to fix this!"

"You can't fix everything, kid. People die, especially ninja," Jiraiya said.

"But he's not even a ninja! This isn't right!" Naruto objected. "If those guys had a problem with me they should've…"

"Should've what?" Jiraiya asked. "Challenged you to a duel? Real ninja don't mess around like that. If Blondie over there hadn't slowed them down until Gai and I arrived, you'd probably be long gone by now."

"Gone where?" Sasuke butted in.

Jiraiya glared at the brat, half tempted to give him another whack on the head to put his lights the rest of the way out. But Gai couldn't afford to carry an extra brat back to Konoha, and Jiraiya sure as hell wasn't going to waste a day on him. "I don't know what they plan to do to him once they get him," Jiraiya said, mostly honestly. "Maybe experimentation, maybe dissection, maybe they just plan to cook him up and eat him. Your brother hangs out with a freaky crowd. Point is we aren't going to let them get Naruto, so their intentions at this point don't matter."

"They're planning to cook me and eat me?" Naruto interrupted shrilly. "I taste bad. That toad can tell them I taste really bad!"

"They probably aren't planning to eat you," Jiraiya said with a sigh.

"He was embellishing, you idiot," Sasuke said.

"What does this have to do with salad?"

"That's garnishing!" Sasuke said, putting his hand against his head as he winced in pain. "They wouldn't eat you. They'd be too afraid to catch stupid!"

Jiraiya really wanted a drink, sake, beer, turpentine. He wouldn't be picky.

"I'm going now!" Gai bellowed. They all turned to see him lift the injured teenager. "I will see you when you return to Konoha with that Lady! She will be able to help my eternal rival and this boy both."

Jiraiya was surprised Gai hadn't shouted the name of their target. He didn't think there were that many brains under that awful bowl cut.

"Run fast, master uber brows!" Naruto shouted, jumping and waving.

"I will get him there in time or I will run everywhere on my hands for the rest of my life! It's a promise!" Gai bellowed. The villagers, who were just coming out of their homes and businesses to check the damage, winced and ducked as Gai vanished in a green blur.

"You going to let me splint your arm?" Jiraiya asked Sasuke.

"I don't need help," Sasuke said, sulking.

"Can you walk?" Jiraiya asked.

Sasuke nodded.

"Good. Head back to the village, and bring this with you," Jiraiya said as he pushed Ed's things back into their bag. "Turn it over to the ANBU when you file your report. And if you even think about going after your brother, I'll hunt you down-" Sasuke glared sullenly at him, and Jiraiya decided to use a different threat. "-dye your hair pink, put you in a dress, and hang you upside down from the sign post in the village shopping district."

Sasuke looked very confused. Naruto laughed and pointed at him.

"You'll look like Sakura!" the orange boy jeered.

"You already look like Sakura," Sasuke growled, and then winced at his own dumb comeback.

"I do not!" Naruto said.

"Just go!" Jiraiya said, pulling Sasuke rather roughly to his feet and looping the bag over his head.

The dark haired genin winced as the bag bumped his injured arm, but Jiraiya didn't care anymore. Damned kids! He gave Sasuke a little push to get him moving.

"Hey!" Naruto said. "What if Sasuke gets attacked on his way back to the village? Shouldn't we go with him?"

"He doesn't need a babysitter," Jiraiya said.

It was probably the closest thing to a complement the Uchiha would ever get from him.


It had taken Sasuke an hour and a half to reach the resort town Jiraiya had taken Naruto to, but it was long after dark before he got back to Konoha. One of the guards at the gate wanted to escort him to the hospital, but he hobbled there on his own. Sakura, his other annoying teammate, was waiting for him.

"Sasuke, are you alright!?" she shouted, running towards him across the lobby.

He thought it was rather obvious that he wasn't. The pink haired girl looked like she was going to try and hug him. He made sure he had room to dodge, but she skidded to a stop a few feet away.

"What happened?" she asked.

"What do you mean?" he asked as he walked to the nurses' station.

"Gai-sensei rushed through here hours ago carrying Naruto-"

"It wasn't Naruto," Sasuke interrupted.

"Hu?" Sakura said. "It looked like-"

"It wasn't him," Sasuke said. "It's some guy Naruto was hanging around with. They don't even look that much alike."

"Well Gai-sensei went past me pretty fast," Sakura said. "Then where is Naruto? And what happened to you and Kakashi-sensei? Who were you fighting with?"

"No one," Sasuke muttered, finally catching a nurse's attention.

"Why won't you tell me what's going on?" Sakura whined.

"It's not like you could do anything if you knew," Sasuke said.

"How do you know? Maybe I could if you just told me-"

"Sakura," he grunted. "Go away."

He followed a nurse into one of the side rooms. Sakura didn't follow them into the room, but he could hear her shuffling in the hallway. She'd probably lurk there all night.


A Week Later, the Festival City

"…We'll train here too," Jiraiya said as they walked through the village.

Naruto looked at the crowd around them. From the overlook he had seen thousands of people milling around, laughing and smiling. He could see dozens of concession stands and game booths. He'd always wanted to go to a festival, and nobody here would tell him he couldn't buy from their stand, or that there was no space for him at the coin toss or the dunk tank. He smiled. He could finally go to a festival and…festivate? Was that even a word? He was about to ask the pervert sage when a blond kid in a red shirt ran past.

The kid didn't even look like Ed, but it sprang to the front of his mind. He'd put off thinking about it as they traveled. They had to find that lady after all. The pervert sage had explained she was a healer who could patch up stab wounds with next to no effort, and could probably help Kakashi as well. So Naruto had tried not to think about it. He was good at not thinking about things that made him sad.

"Do you think Master Uber Brows got him to the hospital in time?" Naruto asked.

"Hu?" Jiraiya asked. He'd been looking over his shoulder at a couple of women who'd walked past.

"Do you think Ed made it to the hospital in time? Do you think he's ok?"

"Probably," Jiraiya said. "He seemed like a tough little bastard."

"But what if he died?" Naruto asked.

"If he died there's nothing you can do about it," Jiraiya said. "You had the training at the academy, didn't you? People die in our line of work."

"I know! I've seen people die. I just don't want Ed to be dead," Naruto said. "People shouldn't just die when they try to help people you know?"

Jiraiya sighed. "Do you think he regrets it?"

"Hu?" Naruto asked.

"Do you think he regrets helping you out in that fight?" Jiraiya asked.

"I don't know. I guess he might if he was dead," Naruto said.

"Dead people don't have regrets. And I doubt he's dead," Jiraiya said. "It's a festival kid. Go play or something. I'm going to go collect intelligence."

Naruto nodded to himself for a moment. "Hey! I know! I'll win him something cool!" he declared.

"That's good. You got some money to spend?"

Naruto nodded. He was about to take out his wallet and show off all the cash he'd saved up, but then he remembered Ed telling him not to go waving his money around. "I've got money," Naruto said.

"Alright. I'll see you later. Carry this for me?" Jiraiya said, dumping his backpack in Naruto's arms and then vanishing into the crowd before he could object. Naruto made a face, but didn't bother to yell. He wandered off into the bustle of the festival, looking at the different game booths until something really awesome caught his eye.


There were bright lights and every word he heard was garbled beyond understanding. Ed was aware that he was passing in and out of consciousness, but it was more confusing than just that.

He saw green, a shoulder and the side of someone's neck, dark hair, trees hanging above. Pressure under his back and legs told him he was being carried.

He saw a white ceiling, men and women in white uniforms with black tattoos on their hands reached over him, calling out questions.

And then there was a different white ceiling, this one bumpy and sound proofed. Something stuck up over his face. There were tubes coming out of it. And then that faded too.

It was replaced by darkness and a slow steady beeping.


Author's Note: Sorry this is taking so long. February wasn't a good writing month for me. I called it the Festival city because I couldn't find the name of it anywhere. Don't forget to review!