-Thank you so very much for Gravenimage, DrendeSalkash, Ayesha Samura, Bombat1994, uzukun7, Cecixx19, Darth Hawk 32, and uzumakisunspydr for all your reviews last chapter. Sorry for the rather late update…

-If you have any time to spare, please feel free to post a review for this story. Tell me what you think of my story, or perhaps you want to ask a few questions? All kinds of feedbacks are more than welcomed.

Best Regards,

Pizza Blade

PS: For Daimyar, if you are still reading this story, I apologize that I must use the term 'unfathomable expression' again in this chapter. Only one time, though! Thought I give you a little heads-up before you read this, hahaha.


A Fan-Fiction based on the popular Manga/Anime Naruto

Created and owned by Masashi Kishimoto

Into the Future…

Written and directed by Pizza Blade

Special honorary thanks to all of my readers and reviewers

-Eleventh Episode-


"Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose."—The Wonder Years



-Hidden Cloud

"Destroyed?" Shikamaru looked taken aback, "What do you mean destroyed?"

What he just said apparently surprised everyone on the scene—even the seemingly always unperturbed Hideo looked a bit startled.

"…Wellnot all the Village…" Sakura responded back through the radio, "But a good portion of the Village, the one directly below the part of the wall where I stand right now, was destroyed. Ruins and rubbles everywhereIt's almost like the view when Leaf was attacked by Orochimaru a long time ago…"

"In any case, Sakura," Shikamaru replied hastily—he wasn't entirely sure what to make about this new discovery, but now's not the appropriate time to stop and think, "Quickly, throw the ropes. It's not good for us to stay any longer than necessary out here."

"…" a pause, before, "…Right, sorry…"

The radio connection disconnected shortly thereafter.

Around five minutes passed, before Shikamaru and the others could see something was coming from above. It was an exceptionally long string of ropes made from multiple ropes strung together at each end. It would appear Sakura also used some sort of Chakra manipulation to strengthen the bind in-between the ropes.

The string of ropes did not manage to reach all the way to the ground however, although it was low enough so that it's reachable by the rest of the entourage with only a modest Chakra-enhanced jump necessary.

"…Is it enough?" Sakura said by the radio.

"It's enough," Shikamaru responded, "Make sure you keep it secured up there, Sakura. Also, do not lose focus on your surroundings."

"…Got it," Sakura replied back.

"Hinata, you go first," Shikamaru gave a signal to Hinata.

"Okay," the Hyuuga heir nodded.

She gathered a moderate amount of Chakra on her feet, before jumping high to reach the end of the rope.

She managed to get a hold at the end part of the ropes with her right hand, and quickly used her left hand to get a hold of the ropes as well. She slammed both her legs towards the walls, and once she got a stable footing, she began to start the long climb up.

"One of you go first," Shikamaru looked towards Kabuto's group, "I reckon you don't want all of us going up first for fear that we might cut the rope, right?"

"How very noble of you," Seto said without looking at Shikamaru, while Kabuto just smirked.

He jumped up, and not too long after, just like Hinata, he began the ascension. It didn't take long for him to become just a tiny speck all the way up there.

"I'm next," Hideo said nonchalantly, and without even giving any opportunity for both Shikamaru and Kabuto to say anything, he jumped towards the end of the jointed ropes. He almost didn't make it, but he quickly planted both his Chakra-enhanced legs towards the wall and ran up a bit to grab the ropes.

He quickly climbed the ropes, and it didn't take too long also for his back to become just a tiny dot up in the high altitude.

"…Go ahead," Shikamaru said when Kabuto was looking at him questioningly.

Kabuto smiled a little. He gathered his Chakra onto his feet, and then jumped towards the end of the ropes. Something then happened that greatly surprised Shikamaru—if only he could really believe his eyes. At first it would appear that Kabuto's jump was not as high as he thought would be, because he couldn't reach the end of the ropes.

…But then it would seem that he jumped again in mid-air, and that gave him the necessary height to grab the end of the ropes. He then started to ascend the walls up without looking back.

Shikamaru didn't move for a while after Kabuto was way up there.

"……was he just…" he muttered to himself, his expression looked totally bewildered, "…double jump in the mid-air?"

But that's just impossible… he had never heard someone ever performed consecutive jumps in mid-air where the only footing available was empty air… So perhaps he just imagined it? Maybe it's just his eyes playing trickery on him? Perhaps it was because the sun?

He couldn't stop thinking about it, although he knew that like before, now wouldn't be a good time to stop and think.

He shook his head, trying to concentrate.

"…First thing first…" he muttered to himself again.

He gathered Chakra onto his feet, and took a few steps back away from the wall. Once he felt the Chakra was enough, he ran towards the wall and jumped towards the end of the ropes.

Thankfully, he managed to get a hold of it rather easily.

Sighing in relief, he grabbed the ropes strongly and began his long ascension climbing the high wall.


-???

He opened his eyes.

…Slowly.

…How long has he been asleep?

……How long has he been inside the state of unconsciousness?

He didn't even realize the situation he's in right now, and he was surprised to realize that his body didn't even move in the slightest when he tried to move. His entire body felt very sore, numb, and very stiff… it was like they were all have not yet moved for a very long time.

And when he persisted in trying to move, his head was screaming with pain because he felt a sensation like his entire body all the way from the top of his hair to the bottom of his toes was struck by uncountable amount of very sharp needles.

Moreover, to his greater surprise, he found that he couldn't even move his mouth to speak up the pain. He found that he didn't even have the energy to move his jaw, and that he couldn't find any energy to move any part of his body even in the slightest.

Where am I?, he muttered inside his mind, and immediately afterwards, he felt unbelievably nauseated.

Even the act of just speaking inside his head seemingly required an obscene amount of energy. The insides of his head were very blur and dizzying, like someone just smacked his head very strongly with thick steel.

He tried to get a focus on the situation he's in right now, and where he was.

And when he finally got a clue about it, to say that he was very shocked was a very severe understatement.

From what he could gather from his limited movements (he could not even move his head freely), he was currently inside some sort of… tank, or a huge confined glass, and drowned inside a yellowish liquid which he had never seen before in his entire life. His entire body was suspended in the middle of the tank, and shockingly it was done by seemingly innumerable amount of transparent cables inserted forcefully into his body in various spots; both his hands, his stomach, his back, both his legs, and he could even feel one at the back of his head as well… meanwhile his face was covered by what would appear to be a breathing-aid device.

……So was that he felt all weird before when he tried his move his body? …Because someone inserted cables into his body? When he glanced down at the cables inserted into his stomach, slightly above his abs, he could see that something reddish was flowing inside it—his first thought that it was blood being drained out from him, but then he realized that wasn't the case.

If truth be told, he wasn't entirely sure what was that getting drained out inside the cables. Besides the fact that it was reddish, he couldn't really see it well because not only he was drowned in a yellowish liquid, his eyes were still somewhat fuzzy as well. All that he knew was that for some reason he felt exceptionally tired, and he suspected that it was definitely got something to do with all the cables draining… something… out of him.

…He tried to get a look at the room outside the big glass he's in right now. From what he could see, it was just an ordinary spacious room, with numerous foreign-looking machines set up inside it in numerous spots, plus a chair and a table where numerous important-looking documents were lying. He could see that his big glass was connected to some of machines, and the cables were connected to some of them as well.

He had no idea what to figure from all the things he could see so far…

……All he knew was he felt exceptionally tired…

…So very tired…

……And very sleepy……

It's like nothing would be more tempting right now than to just close his eyes…… perhaps with that he could just…

…Slip away or something…

He looked down, his eyes were heavy. They were so very heavy…

Tired

…He's so very tired with everything……

"Well," suddenly a voice came out, a voice that suddenly snapped him back to reality, a voice that suddenly snapped him out of his attempt to just rest, "…This is quite a surprise. It seems that finally you are able to wake up…"

He quickly lifted his face up.

And when he did, through the glass, he could see someone standing inside the room. In front of him, right in front of him…

Someone…

"Hey Naruto," Sasuke gave off a smile, "How are you doing?"


Naruto couldn't believe his eyes.

In front of him, stood the person that he once, and still, thought as his own brother, his own family. It was the person that he knew that once became the most important person to the one that he loved.

His features had changed. After all these years, he had changed. He seemed to be taller, much taller compared to when Naruto saw him last time. His hair got longer, all the way down to his shoulders. His face has changed too—he looked more adult, more grown up. It was a face that has felt everything, has seen everything.

But no matter how much he changed, Naruto knew for absolute certainty that it was him. From the first second the blonde Jounin laid his eyes upon the person in front of him, he knew exactly that it was him.

…The one person he thought he could never see again.

……His former comrade…

……His long lost friend…

Uchiha Sasuke……

Sasuke smiled as Naruto, from within the big glass, was staring at him. He walked towards the one and only chair on the room and picked it up with one hand. He put the chair right in front of the big glass Naruto's in, and promptly sat there, both his legs and his arms crossed.

He was staring directly at Naruto in the eyes, his expression unfathomable.

"You must be very surprised," Sasuke said after he didn't say anything for some while, "…About all of this."

For some reason, he looked solemn.

…And perhaps, even sad. His face was like a person that tried to contain all the pain inside himself, trying to withhold it so that all the emotions did not pour out uncontrollably for all the world to see.

"…It has never been my intention that everything ends this way," he said quietly, "With you… like this, Naruto. Although now I image it would be way too late to say something like that. Regardless…" he added, "I will tell you everything right now. It will not be enough to make amends, but at the very least I should do this because you truly deserve to know, Naruto."

Sasuke leaned forward for a bit and touched the outer part of the big glass with his fingertips. Naruto's eyes were following Sasuke's every move, and flashes of helplessness were clear on his face because the fact that the person he's been searching for his entire life was there so close to him, so very near him, yet he couldn't do anything about it.

Sasuke let his fingers stayed on the outer part of the big glass for quite a while, before he retracted his hand back and returned to his original position.

"…When Akatsuki was defeated by the combined effort of Konoha and its allies, I, along with the rest of my most trusted people, went for hiding. We were trying to regroup, gathering again our strengths in order to strike again against Konoha. Yes…" he muttered, "Even the elimination of Akatsuki did not waive our intention… my intention to seek revenge against my former home."

"…We went from place to place, seeking a place where we could rest our wary legs and bodies while recollecting our strengths and planning our next move. Unfortunately, no country was willing to accept us because of our ties with Akatsuki. Worse, some of them event went as far as trying to eliminate us, the last remnants of the organization that managed to nearly make the entire Shinobi world to collapse."

Sasuke sighed.

"…At first we wondered how could all of them possibly knew about our relationship with Akatsuki," he continued, "But then again we found out that Konoha has spread information about us to every country in this world… information about the last of the Akatsuki that managed to escape during the destruction of the main group. Information that disallow us entry to any decent place left in this world. It's like Konoha were just spitting in our faces just for the fun of it…" he laughed a little, "But it didn't matter for us. If there's no place willing to accept us, than we were content in just finding a place of our own. It didn't matter that in order to do that we had to stay in a secluded place, far from civilization, disconnected from the rest of the world. As long as we could still breathe, it didn't matter on what surface we slept, or what things me must ate to survive. We were so determined in our cause, we even believed that we still had the opportunity to wreck havoc in Konoha regardless the fact that we didn't have the strength of Akatsuki again to back us up."

Sasuke's expression suddenly turned grim.

"We were always on the move, trying to evade all the assassins sent by many countries hell bent on destroying us because of what Akatsuki members had done to them in the past," he said, "But we always managed to outdo them. On the times when we couldn't avoid fighting, we always managed to eliminate the assassins before they could do anything to us. We regained our confidence… we thought that no one could ever hope to destroy us. But then, in the end, the one that managed to deliver a fatal blow to us was someone that I thought I would never see again in my entire life."

Sasuke clenched his fist.

"…Yakushi… Kabuto," he looked angry, "He's still alive, and he sought revenge for what I did to his cursed master a long time ago. Since I last met him, he had managed to secure some very powerful allies to help him in his cause, allies that would gladly give their life for the sole purpose of killing me. He found out our hiding place, and attacked us. It was a battle that cost my group dearly—two of my most trusted men were killed, while I and the last member of our group named Karin managed to escape their clutches. It was a battle that I would not be able to forget for my entire life… Because of their unusual Chakras, even my Sharingan couldn't……"

He paused for a moment, before continuing,

"Anyway," he said, "…The battle reminded me that I wasn't just strong enough to be able to fulfill my desire of crushing Konoha under my palms…"

Naruto twitched a little when he heard that, something that seemingly escaped Sasuke's attention because he kept talking,

"I came to a realization that no matter how strong I am, I still need powerful allies not only to do that, but also to get rid of the new powerful threat that emerged in the form of Kabuto," Sasuke continued, "So, while both of us, me and Karin, running around from places to places to escape anyone trying to kill us, we both kept looking for a plan, for an opportunity that would get us to our objectives. Yes, even with just us two, we never had any intention to succumb to the hardships and whatever fate thrown to us."

"…And then, just by pure luck, or maybe even fate, the opportunity shown itself up to us," he added, "We heard something very interesting during our nomadic life together. We heard that there's been a civil war erupting inside Hidden Cloud because the previous Raikage was assassinated by someone with ambition to become the next leader of the place. The village itself became the battleground between those who supported the previous Raikage and those who backed this new ambitious man, a man with the name of Amagi Hiroshi. In the end, the one that won was the men behind the bloody coup. Their victory was swift, because Amagi did not only manage to vanquish those who still loyal to the previous Raikage to the point where they could no longer a feasible threat, he even managed to turn the fearsome Hidden Cloud's elites, the Shadow Cloud, to his side. And not only that, he managed also to bewitch the heart of the previous Raikage's daughter, a woman by the name of Hinomuya Tatsuki. I believed you have met her before in Sand, Naruto. She's the one masquerading as the Raikage of the Sand during the meeting. I must say though, the blood of a Kage truly ran inside her veins—she knew how to act as a Kage very properly… she even managed to fool you three and the Kazekage at the same time. With the blessings from the very daughter of the man he killed himself, more and more people began to admit him as the legitimate ruler of the Hidden Cloud."

Sasuke took a deep breath, before continuing,

"We heard that this new ruler, this Amagi person, is a man with unquenchable thirst for conquest… a man with an insatiable desire to rule over all, to become the most powerful Leader of a most powerful nation in the world," he said, "…And so, I approached him—which was no easy task in itself, mind you. I approached him with the offer of a promise, a promise that would let him attain his goal, his goal to become number one in the world of Shinobi. Unlike any other leaders, he didn't reject us when he found out that we were the last remnants of the Akatsuki—in fact, it made him even more interested in us, how members of what has been widely known as the most powerful and the most dangerous Ninja group ever existed were trying to offer him something, trying to strike a bargain with him. He listened to us."

Sasuke pointed to his eyes.

"I offered him this," he said, "Sharingan. The last Sharingan in the world, I offered this to him. Cloud would have what was once known as one of Konoha's most powerful weapon, the Sharingan of the Uchiha Clan. The clan that was once annihilated will be reborn again, and this time under the servitude for Cloud."

Even though Naruto was inside the big glass, he could clearly hear all the things that Sasuke said to him. And what he just said struck his heart painfully—Sasuke never really did ever intend to return to Konoha. He knew that… somewhere deep inside him, he knew that… but Naruto's still always chasing him… still forfeiting the thought of possibility that his friend would forever lost…

……

"Servitude from the last Uchiha, with the promise of the future Uchiha Clan would serve under Cloud was clearly enough to intrigue the man," Sasuke continued evenly, "…But he wanted more. He wanted more. He said to me that the moment has never been better for him to try on a conquest war against Konoha, seeing that Konoha and its allies were still reeling from the after-effects of the Legendary War. Besides, he needed a war as something that not only could satisfy his lust for conquest, but also to serve as a distraction for the people of the Cloud. He needed a common enemy to fight so that he could unite all Cloud under him. You see, even though he won the battle against those still loyal to the previous Raikage he assassinated, the voices of dissent could still be heard clearly amongst the people of the Cloud because of his method of coup. He needed to appear as a trustworthy and commendable leader, a better leader compared to the one he assassinated in order to forever silence doubting voices… and what better way to show that but to conquer the most powerful country in the world?"

"But even he realized that even in its weakened state, Konoha could still become a very formidable enemy… particularly because the man who became the Hokage after the death of the Fifth was none other than the Copy Ninja Hatake Kakashi himself, a man world-famous for his strengths, intelligence, and his cunning. Moreover, there's the problem of the Sand as well, because they certainly wouldn't just stay quiet if their closest ally were to be in danger," Sasuke said, "Plus, the people of the Cloud themselves were tired of conflicts themselves because of the civil war that transpired after the Coup attempt. Should he attempt to drag the Village to a war without a proper and justifiable cause, then he would risk losing the support from the people."

"He then told me this: he would be willing to accept me into Cloud only if I could bring him just that: a war with Konoha and possibly Sand in which Cloud couldn't possibly lose. As a former Konoha Ninja and a person heavily involved in Konoha affairs, he expected me to know some sort of Konoha's shortcomings that Cloud could manipulate in order to emerge triumphantly," Sasuke said, "I must say, his request were really difficult even for me. For quite a while, I couldn't even think of something… finding a justifiable cause to go to a war against Konoha in which Cloud couldn't lose…"

Sasuke looked Naruto directly in the eyes.

"And then…" he smiled, "I remembered you, Naruto."


-Hidden Cloud

"…Here you go," Hinata lent a helping hand to Shikamaru once he finally managed to climb to the topmost of the wall.

"Thanks," Shikamaru grabbed her hand—he then jumped over and landed promptly on the floor.

"Shikamaru," Sakura that stood a few meters in front of him was beckoning him, "Look at that. That is what I want you to see."

Shikamaru quickly approached her.

From where he and everybody stood right now, on the edge of the topmost section of the wall, they could see a very clear overview of perhaps nearly all parts of the village. The village looked very enormous in size, quite probably even larger compared to even Konoha. It was an astonishing view, with buildings and houses seemingly spanning for forever into the far distance.

"It's…" Hinata looked genuinely taken aback, "It's very huge…"

"Well…" Kabuto muttered, "It seems that no matter what they do, they're doing it quite well."

"Shikamaru," Sakura said urgently with her finger pointed down to a direction, "Look down there."

Shikamaru immediately followed Sakura's direction.

There, he saw it… something very unusual and very contrast to the rest of the village that they could see from up here… A good chunk of the village was destroyed. Ruins, rubbles, and smokes were everywhere. It was strange though, it was as if the damages contained to just one section of the village only.

Regardless, whatever's destroying that part of the village… it must be very powerful indeed to be able to cause damage on such a scale.

"What do you make of that?" Sakura said, "Do you think it's got something to do with why we're here?"

Shikamaru did not answer for a while. He seemed to be thinking.

"There are still some people there," Hinata said with her Byakugan active—it seemed like now since she's already on top of the wall, the barrier set up on it did not impede her sight anymore, "…Almost all appear to be civilians, or dressing like civilians, with some that I would think are Cloud Ninja patrols. It's strange though… the movement of the civilians…"

"What of it?" Hideo inquired.

"It is as if they are trying their best to evade the patrols…" Hinata explained, "…They're hiding from them. But their movements… they're doing their hiding in a very coordinated way. They do not move like just some mere civilians. It is as if they are… trained people."

"Hmm…" Seto muttered, "That is interesting."

"Do you have perhaps some ideas?" Kabuto asked Shikamaru.

Shikamaru shook his head.

"Perhaps, but I am not so sure," he said flatly, "Regardless, we would not be able to know what's going on unless we're going there ourselves."

"Shikamaru," Sakura cut sharply, "Do you really think it would be wise to us to go there? We might get ourselves involved in business that does not have anything to do with our objectives."

"We might, we might not," Shikamaru said without looking at her, "Our one and only ally in this village for this moment is the Konoha spy, and even that is unreliable, because we obviously do not know what has happened to her. We need to gather information, and the best way to do that is to befriend a Cloud's native as soon as possible."

"Y… you are saying that we need to approach one of those people trying to hide?" Hinata asked, "Do you think it will be okay?"

"Yeah," he nodded, "The fact alone that they're trying to hide from the patrols suggests that they're not friends with the authorities here. If we play our cards right, we might be able to gather some information from them. But we need to be careful not to let our being here is known to the patrols. First thing first, we need to get down there."

"I see a set of stairs leading down not too far over there," Seto pointed his finger to the east, "It seems unguarded. It's pretty strange though, that this section of the wall seems to be deliberately left unguarded."

"I don't really understand it myself, but let us use every opportunity we can get," Shikamaru said, "Come on, let's go."

Sakura looked she had some misgivings about this, but she didn't say anything in the end. The group then moved to the stairs leading down that Seto pointed out, and with it they went for the mysteriously destroyed section of the Hidden Cloud village.


- ???

The only sound inside the room were the sound of the machines humming softly against the stillness of the air, and the bubbles that emerged occasionally from within the liquid-filled big glass in which Naruto was drowned.

Naruto and Sasuke were staring into each other's eyes.

It was as if through their eyes, they were communicating with each other, communicating many things that not even a million words could describe.

"…I remembered about you, Naruto… or specifically, the thing inside you," Sasuke said, "The only tailed Bijuu left in the world, the only Jinchuuriki left alive in this world… the only one that managed to escape from Akatsuki's grasp. If I could offer also that power to the Cloud, there's no way Amagi would be not willing to accept me into his ranks. And thus, I came to him… I proposed a plan to him… a plan that would not only give him a war against Konoha, but also a war where Cloud could not lose. It was a plan that would bring us the ownership of the last great power of the strongest Bijuu in this world. Naturally, just as predicted, although not without some misgivings from his part, he was interested in this plan."

Sasuke took a breather for a while, before adding,

"And not only that, this plan would also help me eliminate the thorn that is Yakushi Kabuto," he said, "I explained my situation to Amagi, and he agreed to help me eliminate Kabuto's group insofar I kept my promise of bringing him the things I promised to him. He event went as far as wanting to join in the plan himself, to witness from close range just how effective my plan would be—he's a reckless man, to be sure… confident, strong, but reckless. In a way, he actually is somewhat similar to you, Naruto. We had some trouble because of him insisting to come; we needed to make sure that nobody knew he's gone, and we needed to find someone trustworthy to act as his voice while he's away."

"We then began the beginning phases of our… of my… plan. I knew that there are some Orochimaru's spies lurking in the Cloud, and I deliberately spread the information about my whereabouts in Cloud so that it would reach their ears. I had hoped that they would relay that information to Kabuto, and turned out they did exactly that. The next step is to fabricate and spread out a story about a Shadow Cloud member betraying the group because of loyalty to the previous Raikage. We chose the youngest member of the group, a young woman by the name of Tsukahime Kaede. She was chosen not only because of her abilities of information gathering, but also because of her fierce loyalty to Amagi. We gave her the task of infiltrating Kabuto's group and sending us information about their actions and movements periodically."

"As expected, Kabuto approached Tsukahime once we sent her out from Cloud. The possibility of gaining the cooperation of a former Shadow Cloud member would be too good to ignore for him once he heard the news that I am under Cloud. Once she successfully got into the group, we laid low for a while. We didn't move while she kept sending us information about Kabuto's group—their movements, their numbers, and the abilities of their members. We needed some time so that she could gain their trust. Unfortunately, however, we couldn't exactly pinpoint the group's exact location because just like his former master, Kabuto was always on the move—he never stayed in the same location any longer than what was absolutely necessary. This made him particularly difficult to track."

"But no matter, because my plan was to bring him to us," Sasuke said, "…In any case, once we thought the time was enough, we began to initiate the second part of my plan… Ah, but maybe you want to hear something very interesting first: around the same time we were about to launch the second phase of the plan, Tsukahime sent us information about perhaps Kabuto's most interesting experiment. Apparently, he managed to create an artificial human being, a Homunculus. Not only this Homunculus has the intelligence of a normal human being, he also fitted it with the ability to use some sort of an extremely deadly poison that would render any Shinobi, no matter how powerful, to become useless very quickly. It was a poison Tsukahime said Kabuto developed himself. She managed to obtain a sample of this poison and sent it to us. To say that Cloud's scientists were deeply impressed by that sample was a very huge understatement—they were in awe. They said they had never seen a substance so dangerous and deadly before, and it took them a very long time before they could find the counter antidote for it. Thank goodness they were able to do it, because without it me and along with the others would have been killed during the meeting in the Sand. Also, Sakura would have been dead as well."

Naruto twitched again, and Sasuke just smiled.

He crossed his legs again before continuing,

"…The second phase of our plan," Sasuke said, "We sent a letter to Sand about Cloud's willingness to form an alliance with them. We deliberately did not send any letter to the Leaf because we knew it would aggravate Konoha. The best part about it was, as a response, Leaf sent you, Naruto, to the Sand. I just knew that Konoha would send you seeing that you have a particularly strong relationship with the Kazekage of the Sand, the former host of the two-tails. This made the objective of getting you into our hands became much easier because you wouldn't have Kakashi protecting you from up close."

"When the time comes, we sent Hinomuya to the Sand," he continued, "She's about to play the role as the Raikage of the Cloud. There's a reason why we put so many security with patrols and traps everywhere around the Cloud, Naruto—it's to prevent the possibility of anyone from within Cloud to get out and spread the information about her not the real Raikage during the commencing of the plan. Most of the Cloud's citizens did not know nor they cared about it—we told them that the extra measures of security was necessary because we needed to prevent outsiders to know about the recent civil wars that erupted after the successful coup attempt. If the outsiders ever found out about it, they might be tempted to strike against the Village. It wasn't an outright lie, Naruto, although it wasn't the entire truth either. Most importantly, the villagers bought that reasoning. And it's not only for those things also…, one of the main reasons why the security was so tight was that to prevent Kabuto to enter the Village itself, leaving him with no options but to act during Raikage's visit to the Sand if he wanted to gain entry to this place."

For some reason, Sasuke suddenly laughed a little.

"It's amazing, the power of love," he said with an amused face, "It is capable of bringing forth even the darkest sides of human beings. Not only did Hinomuya was willing to betray his father because of his love for Amagi, she was also willing to sacrifice her life for him without questions. When she was told that by agreeing to play as Raikage during the meeting in Sand she would risk her own life, she didn't waste any time to just accept the duty just because it was for the sake of the man she loved. Anyway… what happened next in the Sand you already knew, Naruto. It was our intention from the beginning to let Hinomuya got kidnapped by Kabuto. We implanted a Chakra-concealed transmitter inside her so that we would be able to track her location at all times. Once he got her, all we needed to do was to follow the signal sent by the transmitter to find his hiding place near Sand's border. Me, along with Amagi, and the Shadow Cloud members we brought with us finally managed to find his hideout, and we attacked them in full force."

Sasuke looked annoyed.

"Regrettably, he managed to escape with two of his subordinates," he said grimly, "But it didn't matter, because he didn't have anything else to depend on right now. We destroyed everything inside his hideout—his experiments, his men, his test subjects, his documents—we annihilated all… save for one: the Homunculus he created. We subdued it before we brought it here—it was something very fascinating even for the brightest of scientists here. I heard that they're trying to recreate something similar like that using it as the blueprint… Whatever, it doesn't interest me in the slightest."

He paused for a moment, before continuing,

"Kabuto using the Homunculus to attack the meeting hall where the Kazekage and Hinomuya talked was something of a blessing for us," he said, "We originally intended to use other means to disable the Kazekage and the men inside there, as well as Konoha Jounins that we expected would be there to help safeguard the meeting, but his Homunculus did that job wonderfully. It managed to kill or otherwise made unconscious everyone there, making our job much, much easier. We already drank the antidotes beforehand, so its poison didn't affect us as much, and we managed to regain our consciousness rather quickly. It was as such that we didn't even have to do anything to get you, Naruto. We were originally planning to subdue you by force, but coincidentally you were so distracted by Sakura's well-being that you didn't pay any heed to your surroundings—all I needed to do was to inject you with a specialized kind of paralyzing substances while you foolishly let your guard down, and you're ours for the taking. "

"…Some of our men sacrificed themselves so that it would appear that the Shadow Cloud members that came with Hinomuya were also killed during the attack," he said, "Hinomuya herself must be dead so that it would appear that the Raikage was murdered during her visit to the Sand. Thankfully, we did not have to soil our hands for that—Kabuto killed her with his own hands when he found out that she wasn't the real Raikage and she got transmitter implanted within her."

Sasuke leaned back.

"The plans were finally completed," Sasuke said, "We have captured the last Jinchuuriki, and under the pretense that the daughter of the last Raikage was murdered by both Sand and Leaf when she was sent to Sand to establish an alliance, Amagi got himself the support he needed to wage a war. More importantly, he was able to quench the sounds that still helplessly tried to remind the citizen that he came into power by performing a bloody coup. Once an united enemy was found, he could use it to distract the public's attention to somewhere else, while looking all dependable and strong at the same time. The best part about it was that no one could truly finger Cloud as the one responsible for what happened in Sand—all blames belonged to Yakushi Kabuto, and Kabuto only."

Sasuke shrugged his shoulders.

"It was all just child's play, Naruto," he smiled, "Child's play."


-Hidden Cloud

Impossible, the man thought to himself.

It was just plain impossible.

He knew that his attention was onto something else, and so he didn't really pay attention to his surroundings, but nevertheless he couldn't believe it.

He couldn't believe that someone could actually sneak behind him while he was hidden in all these rubbles trying to hid himself. He couldn't believe someone was actually able to sneaking without him knowing and then putting a Kunai over his neck, saying softly,

"Do not move," the sneaker said, "I am not going to hurt you. Just don't scream, don't do anything suspicious. If you do that, I will release you unhurt. Understand?"

The man didn't answer for a while. His first thought that he was caught unaware by his enemies… but then again, he thought, if he were to be caught by those people, they wouldn't waste any time saying stuff like 'Do not move' or 'I am not going to hurt you.' Those people went straight for the kill—they didn't pretend nor did they ever show any mercy.

So, who's the person behind him right now?

Moreover, he didn't actually sense any overflowing killing intent like the usual people when he witnessed them killing any of his comrades.

What to do? What to do?

"Come on," said the voice behind him, "Please don't make this any more difficult that it really should."

…And they would never say please.

"…Okay," the man finally decided in the end.

"Very good," the sneaker sighed in relief. He then let go of his Kunai and the man's neck was still as good as before.

The man wasted no time to whirl around, and what he saw there surprised him very greatly.

Because he didn't just see one person standing behind him—he saw six people in total! How group of six possibly could possibly sneak behind him in all these rubbles undetected!

He gazed at them one by one. The group was consisting of four men and two women. They dressed like civilians, but the fact alone that they managed to sneak up on him clearly suggested that in this case, the cover really didn't describe the book. His first instinct was that they're Ninjas, but that was impossible because he had never seen before in his entire life—and foreign Ninjas did not have any business in Cloud, surely, and it would be impossible anyway to penetrate into the Village with Genjutsu traps and the like practically spread every inch of the way outside there. But his gut told him that they're outsiders……

He knew that he's in no position to act like he's the one in charge here, but he couldn't help it.

"Who are you people?" the man asked suspiciously, one of his eyebrows raised.

"Well," answered the man that put the Kunai on his neck just before, "I am not sure that you can call us your friends, but we're definitely not your enemies. What's your name?"

"…Huh?" the man looked stupefied.

"He just asked you your name," said one of the women with the pink hair.

"Ah, oh…" he stuttered, "Tora… Tora. Shiranui Tora."

"Alright, Shiranui-san," said the sneaker, "Can you tell me what's going on in here? How come only a section of the village here getting destroyed like this? What happened?"

"…Huh?" Tora looked stupefied again.

His suspicions about those six coming from outside was immediately reinforced. Because not a soul in the Cloud that did not know what has happened on this particular part of the village… for them to have absolutely no idea about it, the only explanation left was that they're coming from outside the walls.

He gazed again at the six people one by one.

From what he could see, three people out of six looked particularly… how could he put it…… they looked particularly not dangerous; the man that just sneaked up on him, as well as the two other women in the group. The way they positioned themselves—how they were trying to be as close as possible to each other—suggested that perhaps they're coming from the same place originally.

The other three, however… One was a bald man that, for whatever reason, closing his eyes for no apparent reason. The other one was a young man with a wild feature on him, the kind of guy who could fill in the stereotype look of those that acted first thinking later very fittingly. Tora could feel that they were different from the other three—they were dangerous. One look at them and he knew that they weren't the kind of people who he could trust no matter what.

The last person however, took the cake. He hasn't speak anything yet, and he gave off a friendly smile, but just one glance at him and something immediately warned Tora that of all six people in front of him this man was obviously the most dangerous one—perhaps also the strongest. Tora couldn't really explain it well, but he got a very disturbing feeling about the man… he even got this weirdest of feelings that the person he's looking at right now…… might not be a person at all……

He contemplated his options.

…although he realized he didn't have too many options to begin with.

"…A man named Amagi Hiroshi did this," Taro glanced to his surroundings, "By his order this section of the Village was destroyed."

"Amagi Hiroshi?" said the bald man.

"Uh… most people here would call him our Raikage," Taro said, "Although by all means he is most definitely everything but our Raikage."

"Raikage?" the sneaker looked a bit perplexed, "…Wait a minute. Did not you know that the Raikage was supposedly killed by Leaf and Sand?"

Taro looked confused.

"What? No," he said, "The one that got killed by Leaf and Sand was the daughter of the previous Raikage… she got killed when she was trying to negotiate an alliance between Cloud and Sand. It caused a lot of rage from the people here when they got the news that she was killed… the honor of the Village or something like that. Her name was Hinomuya Tatsuki-san."

Taro could have sworn that the pink haired woman amongst the group looked very surprised when he mentioned that name, though he couldn't really understand the reason why.

"…I see…" the sneaker appeared to be thinking for a while.

He then looked up to Taro and asked,

"Say," he said, "…Why would the Raikage ordered only this section of the Village to be destroyed?"

"Well…" Taro muttered—he didn't know why, but he found to his own oddity that he felt like he could trust this guy speaking to him right now. It was very strange to have that kind of feeling, seeing that this guy had his Kunai over his neck just a while ago, "…Most probably because for quite a while there has been rumors about the hidden headquarters of the Rebels is located here… that the people that stayed in this section of the Village were all members of the Rebels or collaborating with the Rebels. That's why that wicked man ordered the destruction of this part of the Village."

"…It's getting destroyed like this…" said the other women of the group, "…J…just because of that?"

"Yes—well, he is a cold-blooded guy," Taro looked towards her. What's with her eyes? They looked so terribly weird—they looked all white, and it seemed that something odd was happening to the surrounding areas of her eyes…… But wait, he seemed to be remembering something about people with white eyes…, "It's not that the people of the Village were comfortable with it, but he went with it anyway saying that the rebels must be stopped with full force lest they would cause disturbances in this direst of times when we are facing a war with both Leaf and Sand."

…People with white eyes…… he seemed to have heard someone mentioning something about it once…

"You are saying Rebels…" said the sneaker again, "I assume you are a member of the Rebels? Are the Rebels those that are still loyal to the previous Raikage?"

"Huh…? Oh yeah, uh-huh," Tora was still pre-occupied by the white eyes he was a bit surprised when he's getting addressed again, "They said that the Raikage was assassinated by Amagi Hiroshi when he took over by force, but we believed that the Raikage was still alive—he was only being kept captive in a secret place…"

"…really…" the sneaker muttered slowly.

"What are you doing here anyways?" the pink-haired woman spoke out again, "Why would members of the Rebels still lurking in a destroyed place like this anyway?"

"Well…" Taro looked flustered—this woman was very beautiful, and he couldn't sense the same kind of danger about her the way he felt about those other three guys, yet for some reason he felt kind of intimated by her presence… it was like he's in front of someone very famous, for some reason, "Amagi Hiroshi destroyed this place because he thought that the hidden headquarter of the Rebels is in here. He's correct about it, although what he doesn't know that the headquarter is located hidden deep underground," he looked somewhat satisfied when he said that, "Occasionally, he sent Ninja patrols to survey this area. They were under orders to capture or even kill anyone they encounter on this part of this Village, because just by being here someone is automatically considered as a member of the Rebels."

"Are they still here, Hinata?" the pink haired woman said to the woman with the strange white eyes.

"No," the woman called Hinata replied back, "They're away right now. For the moment, I can't see any patrols roaming the area… We're safe for now."

What? Taro muttered inside his mind. How could she know that? It is as if she could see the entire area of this Village with her eyes

Wait

……White eyes

………The ability to see a large area instantaneously……

!!!

"Well, the patrols are away," said the one that Taro felt to be the most dangerous, "…But it seems like we get some new friends coming,"

Sure enough, a split second later, suddenly the group was surrounded by around ten people jumping from several directions at the same time. They looked civilians, but their movements clearly suggested that they're anything but civilians.

They all looked alert, and they're surrounding the group with their Kunais up, ready to strike at a moment's notice.

"Taro," said one of the guys that just arrived, "Who are these people?"

"Are they Amagi's?" said the other, he appeared ready to attack.

"Wait! Wait!" Taro suddenly said with both his arms raised, "Wait! They're not Amagi's!"

"How can you be so sure?" said one of the arriving guys suspiciously.

"…You," Taro pointed his finger towards Hinata, "That White Eyes… that's Byakugan isn't it? Byakugan of Konoha?"

The ones that just arrived looked startled, some looked downright shocked.

"You know of it?" said the young guy with the wild aura about him.

"Of course," Taro replied immediately, "…The story of the White Eye is widely known throughout the people of Cloud because of a certain incident a long time ago. One of our previous Raikages tried to kidnap one of members of the Hyuuga Clan of Konoha, trying to steal the secrets of Byakugan. He failed, and that incident caused quite a stir for Cloud and Leaf's relationship back then."

Hinata looked uncomfortable, but she didn't deny it.

"Lower your weapons guys," Taro said to his friends, "They're not our enemies."

His friends slowly lowered their Kunais, although some of them clearly still looked somewhat apprehensive.

"Follow me," Taro said, "I'll bring you to our secret headquarter."

"Is it wise, Shiranui-san?" said one of his friends, his face looked very concerned, "We just met with this people. Are you sure that they can be trusted?"

"I'll take responsibility for it," Taro nodded confidently, "Besides, I know that Saki-san would want to meet her fellow comrades coming from such a distance away."

"Saki," the sneaker said immediately, "Do you mean Hironobu Saki?"

Taro looked somewhat surprised.

"Yes," he said, looking even more convinced about this, "That's the name."

"Is she…?" the pink-haired woman edged closer to the sneaker.

"Yeah," the sneaker replied, "It's the name of our contact in Cloud. She's alive, after all……"

"Alive and well," Taro immediately added, "Come on, let's go. We don't have time to waste."

"Alright," the sneaker nodded his head, "I suppose it is as good as any for a start. Let's go."

All of them stood up.

Suddenly, the bald man with the closed eyes said,

"…For that Amagi to be able to destroy this part of the Village," he said, "What kind of army did he send here?"

Taro looked grim.

"He sent his Shadow Cloud members," he replied, "They're monsters. They demonstrated the kind of strength and power we had never seen before in our entire lives. …They're not humans. This whole section of the Village was destroyed in just a span of one day only—incredible power that we could not fight back no matter how hard we tried."

"One day? Destroying all of this?" the pink haired woman looked surprised, "Did he send all of the Shadow Cloud members?"

"No," one of Taro's friends suddenly muttered—for some reason, he looked positively terrified, "…There were only three."


- ???

"…Do you know?" Sasuke spoke quietly, "What is going on with you right now? Why are you inside that machine with so many cables going in into your body?"

Sasuke looked unhappy, but nevertheless he continued,

"It is something created by Cloud," he said, "I never would have imagined before that they were capable of creating such a machine, but in terms of technology alone, Cloud definitely has surpassed any other countries in the world…… and quite by a significant margin too, I might add."

He stood up, his hands on his back.

"You see, Naruto," he said, "Usually, in order to extract a Bijuu out of a Jinchuuriki and then putting it inside someone else, we require a very sophisticated and special procedure. A procedure that only a very few in this world would know… as the country that once hosted two out of nine Jinchurikis, certainly such knowledge is not something that Cloud does not have."

"However," Sasuke pointed his finger towards Naruto's abs, "When we were about to apply that procedure to you, we ran into an unexpected problem…"

Sasuke turned his back from Naruto.

"I never had the chance to really know what kind of person the 4th Hokage is, but he is a truly exceptionally capable man," Sasuke said, "You see, Naruto—the seal he applied to you, the seal that locks the power of the Nine-Tails within you… it prevented us from being able to fully withdraw the Bijuu out from you to be moved to someone else. None of us could figure out how he did it… how back then he was able to create such a powerful seal that none of us could break through right now. The seal he put on you made us unable to perform the necessary ritual… it's like he has forecasted that a day would come when someone would try to take the powers of the Nine-Tails from you and for that reason he applied a very powerful failsafe to prevent it. Truly, even though he has passed away, perhaps he's still the most potent Seal user in this world up to this day. The Seal has weakened, but we have not yet able to find a way to truly wear it down. You should be grateful for that, Naruto—if it's not because of the seal, it is for certain that we would have already drawn out the Nine-Tails out from you and you wouldn't still be alive right now."

"But for every genius in the world there always would be another genius to counter-balance it," Sasuke continued, "I dislike saying this, but the sheer intelligence of that man maybe a match even for me. As soon as we discovered that we couldn't break through the Seal placed by the 4th Hokage, he worked out a way to withdraw the power of the Nine-Tails by circumventing his ways around the Seal. This machine… Naruto…" he knocked on the glass gently, "This machine is the product of his creation."

Sasuke sat on the chair again.

"You see," he said, "We have found that the Seal the 4th put on you was activated only when we tried to pull out the Nine-Tails' energy on a certain quantity. So this machine was specially constructed and designed to pull out that energy from you little by little, Naruto—just at the right quantity so that the Seal wouldn't be activated. Those red things you see flowing inside those cables…" he pointed out towards one of the cables put inside Naruto, "Those are the Nine-Tails' Chakra, being drawn out from you. We then proceeded to synergize those Chakras into some of our best men—not all of them were compatible with the Nine-Tails Chakra, and it took us quite some time to be able to fuse those bits of Chakra into the Chakra of our men without any noticeable side-effects…"

"…But once we were able to do just that, the effects were astounding," Sasuke continued, "In fact, it turned out much better than we could have ever hoped. Those who got their Chakra fused with the Nine-Tails Chakra saw a considerable increase in their strength, Chakra capacity, stamina, and their overall combat capabilities. Such was the increase that it took only three of the Shadow Cloud members that already successfully fused to completely obliterate the part of the Village we suspected as the hiding place for the Rebels—those who still stubbornly loyal to the previous Raikage that got dethroned from his position by Amagi. However, the best part about it Naruto…"

He smiled.

"…Is that we found out to our great delight that the Nine-Tails Chakra inside you was restoring itself," he said, "In other words, for every amount of the Nine-Tails energy we withdrew from you, it took only a moment for the energy to be restored at the exact same amount… making you essentially some sort of a rechargeable battery from which we could continuously draw the Nine-Tails Chakra... it was a fantastic discovery. So far, we have withdrawn enough energy to fuse quite a number of people with the powers of the Nine-Tails—soon enough, we would have an unstoppable army that no force in this world, no matter how powerful, could ever hope to compete."

……

Sasuke suddenly turned quiet.

He looked towards Naruto with solemn eyes.

"…You know, Naruto," he said slowly, "…You might find this hard to believe…, even I find this hard to believe… But the more I got the chance to think about it, the more I see that I am doing all of this… All that I have been doing all this time… They weren't entirely fueled by my desire to have my revenge against Konoha. Sure, it also played a part, but… I have found to my surprise that I was driven to do all those things I have done by something else… something much greater, something that has become a greater part of who I am right now, Naruto."

He put his hand on his chest.

"…It is my desire to find a place where I can finally rest, Naruto," he said, "…To find a place where I can call home. I am… tired of having to run around all the time without any place where I can rest my wary legs, Naruto. Cloud is the only place offering that dream for me, and I will do absolutely I can to preserve it, even if it means I have to destroy Konoha and putting you in this kind of situation. I cannot hesitate, Naruto, because place where I can call home is not something that I seek only for myself, for I now have……"

He paused as he looked towards Naruto meaningfully.

"…Because now, my life does not belong only to me, Naruto," he said, "…And so does my life is not the only thing I need to protect."

Suddenly, a person appeared on the door of the room.

That person quickly ran towards Sasuke, and took a hold of his hand. He looked towards Naruto questioningly, his face filled with genuine curiosity.

Sasuke put his hand on top of that person's hair.

He looked towards Naruto and said,

"Let me introduce him to you, Naruto," he said evenly, "…This is Uchiha Izanagi… the successor of the Uchiha Clan… my son."


TO BE CONTINUED