18. To Protect What's Precious

Sasuke turned on his heel at an alarming rate. "Katon: Gokakyuu no Jutsu!" a ball of fire ejected from his mouth at an unbelievable speed. It lurched toward a stunned Gaara, who had to use his own sand to knock him out of its path.

The fireball sped past and buried itself into the earth. The heat was so intense, so concentrated, that the dirt that touched it smoldered, not even a small flame existed, it was just a huge, smoking crater. Not even the grass directly on its edge was harmed.

The possessed Gaara regained his senses and got to his feet. He was beginning to resemble the Shukaku more and more now, sand clutched to his body and was slowly making him bulkier. His emotions and thoughts were mixing with the demon's now. Control was going beyond his reach…

Gaara was on the other side of the crater, and he looked around trying to configure Sasuke's position.

"Katon: Housenka no Jutsu!" A flurry of fireballs lunged forward from the smoke and arched towards Gaara, a wall of sand quickly isolated him from danger as the smoldering balls of death smashed into his defenses. A number of explosions sounded in rapid succession, muffled only by the wall of sand. One, two, four, six, nine, fifteen. It was a relentless assault, as soon as Gaara's explosion count hit 31, they stopped coming. The sand dropped hesitantly, smoking, glowing red from heat.

As soon as it dropped, Gaara initiated his attack blindly into the smoke.

"Kaze: Suna Shuriken!" Wind Style: Sand Shuriken!

A large mound of sand immediately separated itself into smaller parts, and they simultaneously transformed into deadly weapons, in a matter of seconds, 25 sand shuriken flew into the smoke, and impacted on whatever object happened to be in the way. Gaara listened closely, there were the thunks of wood and rock… but no flesh…

"What the hell are you shooting at… fool?"

Gaara spun around to face Sasuke, for the briefest moment, he stared right into his fully matured Sharingan, so full of hate, of bloodlust… of death. He was paralyzed, unable to move.

"You hurt her… the one that is precious to me, more so than the world itself… so now… you must pay… with your blood!"

Sasuke didn't smirk, like he usually would, his anger was too intense for his normal actions. His palms lit up with the faint purple chakra from none-other than the Curse Seal of Heaven.

'Hyuuga Style Taijutsu!'

"I wont let you beat me!" Sasuke lashed out over and over, targeting Tenketsu based off of the Sharingan's memory. Undoubtedly he missed a few spots, but what he struck was just enough. Parts of Gaara's body was denied its flow of chakra, and his sand, no longer having anything that magnetized it to him, slowly fell away. Gaara swept his arm and a wave of sand came down on the Uchiha, who jumped away just in time.

Gaara quickly surveyed the effected area, both of his arms and partially his upper torso. Not being able to use chakra in his body to magnetize the sand, he would have to send the chakra out of his body from different areas and hold the sand up to him. That was much more costly.

Shukaku's confidence faded long ago, and was now replaced by frustration and anger on the demon's part. The transformation sped up, particles of sand gathered around Gaara, and added to his body. Soon all of his upper portion held Shukaku's stature. Only the very bottom of his legs remained normal.

The demon raised its bulky arms and, with a high pitched war cry, it swept them both forward. Half a dozen giant pillars of sand rose above ground level and arched towards Sasuke. He jumped out of the way, but they curved to follow him, like worms.

Temari and Kankuro disappeared from the area completely, not wanting to be around for possible area effect attacks. Hinata however, was still laying right where Sasuke had left her.

Sasuke dived to his left as one of the pillars shot straight at him, it missed and impacted itself into the dirt, which exploded on contact. Sasuke's Sharingan gave color to all chakra, and he saw what was happening. The sand was guided by Gaara's chakra, and whenever it hit something, a new surge of chakra would shoot down its length, originating from Shukaku, and once the surge reached the end of the pillar, it would cause an explosion. The already crushed target would be blown to bits… all in a time span of less than three seconds.

'I cant get hit by that, if it even grazes me, its over!'

The corrupt Uchiha hit the ground rolling, and with precision timing, he shot a large majority of his chakra to the left side of his body, which happened to be the part in contact with the ground at that moment.

The power surge exploded and made his body leap into the air, a few dozen meters high. Sasuke turned to face Gaara below him…

Then realized up high in the air, directly above Gaara was the absolute last place he wanted to be…

4 pillars raced towards him, covering up any possible vector of escape.

"Damn!" Sasuke cursed, and speedily wove handsigns to counter-attack.

"Katon: Housenka no Jutsu!" A dozen fireballs fled from his body and smashed into the sand, they slowed down, but not nearly enough.

Sasuke began to lose altitude, and was falling back towards the ground, towards the sand.

'No! I'm not going to lose… I cant lose! Hinata…'


Sasuke sat next to Hinata in the park. They had been sitting here on the bench, and simply speaking to one another for an hour. Training had ended roughly 2 hours ago, and since the sun was still out, Hinata had dragged him to the park to relax and let other people train.

"… and so the dobe tossed me one of his Demon Wind Shuriken, that's when I realized his plan." Sasuke spoke nonchalantly, his eyes closed, a completely captivated Hinata with glistening eyes right next to him.

"I realized the feel of the shuriken was unnatural and when I threw it at Zabuza, he jumped clear over it, only to have it transform into the real Naruto." he opened one eye to check her reaction.

"Wow! That's amazing!" she expressed, turning away from him for a brief moment to imagine the situation more clearly. The slowly setting sun set her features ablaze, and made him blush slightly. Sasuke shook the feeling away.

"…That was when Naruto threw a kunai, which forced Zabuza to move away, in doing so, he freed Kakashi. From that point onwards, we left the rest to him…"

He stopped talking when he felt someone's presence from the nearby bushes. Glancing over his shoulder, ever so slightly, he noticed Sakura silently fuming at what would could easily be mistaken for a young happy couple. Sasuke smirked, this was the perfect way to get her to leave him alone… Pretend he had a girlfriend!

He had tuned himself out and only just noticed that Hinata had been speaking to him when she poked him on the shoulder. He turned to face her again. "Huh?" he looked at her questioningly, which for some reason made her giggle. "I asked if you want to go eat? Its almost dinner." a light blush adorned her innocent face. Sasuke wasn't hungry, but saying 'no' to that face was damn near impossible, even for him.

"Sure…"

'No… There's no way I'll lose..!'


'Move aside… I'll handle this' Sasuke flinched, pain shot through his shoulder. The Curse Seal of Heaven wanted control once again.

'No! This… is my fight!' he rammed it aside from his consciousness

The curse's marks were pushed back and sealed with sheer willpower, leaving Sasuke to fend for himself.

Gaara was laughing evilly up until he saw an explosion of chakra erupt from his supposedly doomed opponent… instead of purple, it was blue. He gasped as the wave hit him. 'The force of this chakra…!' Gaara flinched as he struggled to look up at his target once more, 'His chakra wasn't this strong before… How!?' He froze as his ears registered a new noise… A fierce battle cry.

A determined yell, its noise amplified by surrounding chakra. His Shukaku eyes widened as he saw what was happening. "Raaagh!" it was Sasuke's voice, but deeper, more... Enforced.

Sasuke shot towards the ground with an alarming speed… 'Velocity achieved… Now!' The 4 sand pillars were rubbing against each other violently, racing to see which one of them would have the honor of killing him. Three handsigns decided the difference of life and death.

Ox…Rabbit…Monkey…

"Chidori!" The call of a thousand birds flew towards the surface. Sasuke lashed out his arm, and all four pillars of sand clashed with it head on. They didn't stand a chance… The reinforced Chidori tore through the attack, splitting the giant column of sand down the middle. Gaara realized what had happened, and was trying to move… but he was not fast enough.

Sasuke erupted from the bottom of the pillars of sand, and raced towards the surface, Gaara only managed to barely step out of Death's embrace. Missing by a centimeter and a half. Sasuke tore the back of Gaara's body down the middle, shattering his gourd of sand hidden underneath Shukaku's skin. Blood lanced out from the gaping wound. The Chidori hit the ground with a deafening explosion, all solid objects, whether it be dirt, wood, or stone, was cracked and scattered within a 40 meter radius.

The chirping ceased abruptly as the earth absorbed the blow. A lance of electricity shot up every now and then from Sasuke's arm. The sand above scattered in the wind, no longer held in check by Shukaku.

"I told you once already… you cant beat me!" the Uchiha heir sat, kneeling on one knee just behind Gaara, whose sand was that was once attached to his body, was scattered In the wind.

Gaara stood unmoving, and collapsed forward onto his knees. 'Love… it's the only thing… that could have… let him… beat me…' he shook violently before falling onto his stomach. 'Someday… Uzumaki Naruto…. Uchiha Sasuke… I will be more like you…'