AN: Hello, welcome to my fic. This chapter has not been through the beta yet. Once I get it back from the beta I will switch this out for the better version. Enjoy.
The sun beat washed over the large village of Konohagakure no Sato. It was a modest day, unlike the usual scorching heat that the name Hi no Kuni implied. The pleasant whether coaxed the people from their homes to crowd the busy market places, where wandering street vendors had their goods for display and hawkers cried their wares. Money passed from hand to hand, some prices being haggled over before the purchase completed. One man, who was known for being a little aggressive while haggling a merchant, was screaming at the top of his lungs and pounding his fist on the unfazed looking vendor's cart.
Away from all the hustle and bustle of the market areas sat one man, weary to go out into the crowded streets. There are times when Uzumaki Naruto curses the day he let Sandaime convince him to join the Academy. As a kid he always imagined being a ninja would be filled with adventures, wild missions to save a damsel or just having fun with other shinobi. Oh, if he knew back then what he knew now he would have done things differently. Maybe taken his studies seriously, trained harder…save people. Yes, Naruto had big dreams as a student, outlandish dreams, but still dreams.
Unfortunately, the real world doesn't give a damn about anyone's dreams. What the Academy told you but really couldn't teach you have to learn firsthand. The Academy couldn't teach Naruto how to cope with watching a friend die or how to take a life without succumbing to the emotional backlash. Most shinobi are made in the fires of combat, hardened to withstand the distresses of the profession. Naruto learned these lessons and learned them well, and it changed him in ways no one thought possible.
A clang interrupted Naruto's inner drama. His head snapped up to find the smiling face of Ichiraku Teuchi placing another large bowl in front of him.
"How about some food for your thoughts, eh Naruto," the old man inquired. The past couple years haven't been kind to the kind old man. His skin hung loose and wrinkled on his face, but the old man still smiled kindly and could cook a mean Ramen.
"Just thinking about life," Naruto shrugged. He hadn't changed much since he came back from his training sabbatical with Jiraiya. At eighteen years old he stood at about five feet ten inches tall, his hair is still an unruly mop of golden blond and his face had dropped all baby fat leaving the young Chuunin looking even more like his father.
"Oh, that's good. As an old man I have seen a lot of what life has to offer. Who knows, maybe I can give you some insightful advice," Ichiraku finished with a laugh.
Naruto shook his head tiredly. He dipped his chopsticks into the Ramen broth bringing out a bunch of noodles. "No offense, but there isn't much advice you could give me to ease the burdens of my job." The chopsticks darted upward feeding his mouth. Ahh, sweet Miso Ramen.
"Try me! Let's see if I'm as smart as I think I am."
Naruto shrugged in response. Very well, might as well humor him, just to get off the topic. He'd never been a fan of small talk, especially about any difficulties he has been facing. "Have you ever felt as if everything you've done is all for nothing? That no matter how hard you try you can never make things happen the way you want them to happen? If certain choices you made were a mistake?" Naruto finished with an aggravated huff. The last few years have certainly taken the blinders off the powerful blond, and it was showing.
Teuchi would have given any other ninja a look of pity, but he knew Naruto wouldn't appreciate it. Instead he gave the boy a straight answer, it's the least he could do for all the money he spent here over the years. "Sure, there are days that I wish never happened. Some days I wonder what life would be like if I chose a different profession. If I chose to become a ninja like my father wanted for me to be. We all have regrets, but at the end of the day you just have to accept your choices and keep moving forward."
"Easier said than done," Naruto mumbled. He fiddled with is chopsticks finally setting on just swirling them in the broth. Naruto adopted a thoughtful look as he processed everything Teuchi said. He had to admit, the old man did give good advice for a ramen chef.
"Hey gramps, what would you do if you could redo your life with all the knowledge you have now?"
Teuchi looked bemused by the question. It wasn't something that was asked often, sure people think about it, but they usually don't talk about it. "Well," the old man scratched his chin thoughtfully before adopting a small grin, "I guess I would change things, try to make things better."
"If only if only," Naruto sighed wistfully. He drained the broth from his bowl and fished some Ryo out of his pocket laying it down on the counter. "See you later, old man."
Naruto stepped out into the warm Konoha sun. A nice breeze kept the weather bearable. It's a nice day for relaxation. Naruto trekked through the village, occasionally stopping to look at a few trinkets. He was so used to it now, the looks of approval that followed him. Sometime after returning with Jiraiya the people of the village stopped looking at him as Uzumaki Naruto the prankster Kyuubi container and started looking at him as just a normal shinobi passing through the streets. At first he didn't know what to do with all the approving looks, it scared him, but he just took it in stride and smiled or waved at the random civilian who did the same.
"Hey boss," a voice shouted from down the street. Naruto stopped mid step and turned to the source of the scream. Sarutobi Konohamaru came jogging down the street waving his hand. The thirteen year old Sarutobi looked to be starting his growth spurt. From the looks of things he wasn't going to be a small fry like his grandfather was, instead he looked like he's going to be built like his uncle, Asuma. The most noticeable thing about the young Sarutobi, especially to Naruto, was the green Chuunin vest. Naruto never said it aloud, but the fact that Konohamaru became a Chuunin before himself really irked him. Not only did he do it before Naruto, but he did it at a younger age and on his first try, something the young Sarutobi takes pleasure in poking fun at.
"What's up squirt?"
Konohamaru squawked at the shot at his current height. "Oi, watch it boss, in a few years I'll be taller than you. When that happens I'm definitely going to beat you in a fight." Naruto smirked at the proclamation, recalling the talk he had with Konohamaru the day he met him about defeating him if he wanted to become Hokage.
"I'm not in the mood for a spar right now, Konohamaru," Naruto said dismissively. If there was one thing that kept Naruto upbeat about Konohamaru's quicker rise through the ranks it was that the younger Chuunin hasn't beaten him once in a spar.
"I'm not here for that. Hokage-sama wishes to see you. You have a mission," Konohamaru informed him. With the message delivered he leapt up onto a roof and headed off.
Naruto followed Konohamaru's idea and took to the roofs of the village, heading toward the Hokage tower.
The waiting room outside the Hokage's office was…ordinary to say the least. It reminded Naruto of the waiting room of a doctor's office. A room filled with chairs and the occasional magazine resting on a table. No receptionist, there was no need for a receptionist. Only appointments to see the Hokage were summons and emergencies, and you come into the office when you are called for by the assistant.
So, it wasn't without surprise when the door to the office opened and Shizune poked her head out. "You can come in now, Naruto." Naruto hasn't seen much of Shizune lately. Two years sure have driven the medic-nin haggard. Bags rested snuggly under her eyes as if she hasn't had a decent night's sleep in a while and her overall appearance just screamed that something happened that caused her to become this way. Of course, Naruto knew the reason. In fact, the entire village knew the reason for Shizune's depression, and he couldn't blame her. He too was depressed for months after it happened, but unlike him, Shizune didn't pull out of her mood.
Naruto stepped into the office and stood before the Hokage at attention. The office remained the same as usual. Circular in shape, basic wooden desk, half a dozen windows around the office, pictures of the previous leaders and various other things.
"Ah, Naruto, on time as always for a meeting. That's good, being late is a bad habit a shinobi shouldn't have," Hatake Kakashi said with a serious look in his eye. The Rokudaime Hokage didn't look as if he fit the bill to be a Kage. His feet were propped up on his desk, his porn rested in one hand and he still had that ever lazy look on the visible part of his face.
"You called for me, sensei?" Naruto stood at attention in front of his old teacher.
"Don't look so glum," Kakashi said, "I know that things haven't been going well for us against Akatsuki or capturing Sasuke, but you should have faith that it will all come out okay at the end."
"I don't believe in fate," Naruto scoffed. Which was true, ever since Naruto laid a smack down on Neji when they were younger he didn't believe in faith. "Everything we've done the past couple years has been pointless. We tore apart the ranks of Akatsuki killing Hidan, Kakuzu and Sasori. Sasuke killed Deidara and Itachi, but despite all these losses Sasuke and his team mates," he spat the word as if it were acid, "join the group that wants to capture me and replenishes their ranks. On top of all that; we've lost Jiraiya, Tsunade and countless other Konoha shinobi."
Kakashi looked at his student. The once loud and obnoxious child was no more. In its place stood a man, a shinobi who knows what the world has to offer and found it lacking. Ever since coming back from training with Jiraiya nothing seemed to be going their way. Every time they got a leg up on the enemy they recovered and became stronger than they were before. Naruto, for all of his enthusiasm and optimism finally started to feel the weight of his enemies bearing down on him.
It started with the death of Jiraiya at the hands of the Akatsuki leader, Pain. Naruto was hurt badly by his death. Never before had anyone seen Naruto is such a depressive mood. Not even when Sasuke defected was Naruto in such a funk, but in typical Naruto fashion he rebounded back.
Next, it was the discovery that Sasuke had joined the group that wanted Naruto and essentially his death. This one was especially difficult for Naruto. This was the point that Naruto finally came to grips that Sasuke was unredeemable. That if he was going to defeat his former friend he would have to go after Sasuke with the intent to kill because his friend would most certainly be trying to capture him, which would lead to his death.
After that, it was Pain once again, and his partner Konan, who caused Naruto even more suffering. The man (or should I say six men?) and Konan came to Konoha to capture Naruto. With the combined efforts of Tsunade, Kakashi, Naruto, Sai, Sakura, Tenzo, Gai and other various shinobi they were able to destroy all six of Pain's bodies and seriously wound Konan to force her retreat, but the victory was short lived when the message Jiraiya left became clear, the actual Pain was not among the six sent for Naruto. So, despite killing six Kage level shinobi, Pain simply got six new bodies and Konoha was left with one dead Hokage, and five other deaths including Tenzo.
The death of Tsunade hit the village hard. The wounds of Sandaime's death were finally closed, and now the village found themselves leaderless again. The empty chair for Kage caused a power struggle with in the village. Danzo, an old war hawk of the council, wanted the seat. While the majority of the council wanted someone young and with a decent longevity. So, with the help of Utatane Koharu and Mitokado Homura, long time opponents of Danzo and Sandaime's old advisor's, from within the council they got Kakashi elected as the Rokudaime Hokage.
His time as Hokage so far has been surprisingly decent. The ranks swelled, new treaties being signed, good foreign relations, harsher academy training to make better quality shinobi and many other things he implemented were working out. Despite his apparent lack of dedication to the job he has done better than most expected.
Naruto shifted uncomfortably as Kakashi regarded him, not saying anything. What seemed like an eternity ended as Kakashi spoke, "I have a mission for you Naruto. It's an S ranked mission having to do with Akatsuki."
The words caused Naruto to stiffen slightly. It had been almost a year since he had any mission having to do with Akatsuki, the last one ending with the death of Chouji. Before that Naruto had never truly seen a friend killed in combat. The closest to that was Gaara and Tsunade, but both Kage had already been dead when he found out and in the end Gaara was revived with a life transfer jutsu.
"What are the details of the mission?"
Kakashi removed his feet from the desk and opened a drawer. He pulled out a scroll and tossed it to Naruto. "That's the mission scroll. According to various sources, mysterious people wearing black cloaks with red clouds on them have been seen wandering around the Sun Forest, especially near the Crystal Waterfall within the forest. Your mission is to investigate what Akatsuki is doing. You are to only engage them in combat if you have no other options. Understood?"
Naruto raised an eyebrow, "Wait, you want to do this alone? A solo mission most likely against multiple S ranked shinobi?"
"Of course not," Kakashi said jovially, "I've already assembled a team. They are just waiting for their leader to show up down by the South Gate."
"Oh? Who's the Jounin leading the team?"
Naruto took a small step back as something flew toward him. He snatched the object out of the air and looked down at it. It's a red patch that Jounin wear on their green flak jackets they get as a Chuunin. Some wear it, some don't. It's just a way for the brass to keep track of who's a Jounin and who's not.
"Jounin? But I didn't even take the exam for promotion."
"Doesn't matter," Kakashi shrugged, "it's my decision. If anyone gives me any lip about it I will put them in their place."
"Are you sure? I am sure that there more qualified people who can lead this mission. Maybe someone with experience as a Jounin should be the leader."
Kakashi sighed tiredly, clearly he was hoping Naruto would just take the promotion and be on his way. "Naruto, you have been ready for Jounin ever since you came back from your training with Fukasaku-sama at Mt. Myouboku. I think it's time you got promoted to the rank in which you deserve."
Naruto inspected the red patch with the Konoha symbol resting in the center. Shrugging he unzipped his jacket and fused it to the back of it with some chakra officially making him a Jounin. "Is that all?"
"That's all. You're dismissed."
Naruto saluted half heartedly to his old teacher. He ignored the door and jumped out of the window onto a neighboring roof top. First he had to stop by his apartment and gather some supplies and then he would go to the South Gate to meet up with his team.
The blond haired ninja landed about thirty yards from the gate. After gathering some kunai, shuriken, exploding notes and various other tools from his apartment he made his way for the gate.
Standing at the gate was his team. Leaning against the wall with his arms crossed stood Sarutobi Konohamaru dressed in the standard black trunks and undershirt with his Chuunin vest. Pacing back and forth was the pink haired Haruno Sakura. The pink bombshell finally filled out into a beautiful women with very nice curves and a decent bra size. Sitting upon the head of a gigantic dog was Inuzuka Kiba. The last member sat cross legged on the ground drawing in his art book, the ever apathetic, Sai.
Kiba noticed his approach and waved his hand in the air at the blond, "Yo, Naruto. You been dragged into this mission too?"
"You betcha, dog breath," Naruto announced jokingly. Everyone gave a small chuckle as Kiba threatened to have Akamaru take a bite out of Naruto's ass for calling him dog breath.
Sakura smiled at him as he came closer. "Hey, Naruto. We are just waiting for whoever is supposed to lead the team?"
"Your wait is over," Naruto smiled, "I've been promoted."
Everyone perked up at this little bit of information. Konohamaru, obviously, was the first one to exclaim his surprise. "What is Kakashi thinking," he screamed in mock rage, "with you leading us we will get lost walking down a straight path."
"Oi, smart ass. Do you want me to hurt you?" You could hear the smile in Naruto's voice even if his face said otherwise.
Sakura reached over and gave Naruto a congratulatory hug which caused the blond to blush. "I think you will be a great Jounin, Naruto."
Sai reached over and patted Naruto on the back. This gesture was something he read about in a book. A sign of good will toward someone when you want them to feel good or know you are happy for them, "Yeah, I guess this means you finally got something to compensate for your small penis."
Kiba's laughter filled the area at Sai's remark about Naruto's manhood. If Naruto were his old self he would have tried to strangle Sai, but now that he knew the apathetic ninja he knew that he was only joking around about it.
"Don't be jealous of me just because you lack any form of manhood," Naruto shot back.
This one caused Sakura to giggle and Konohamaru to look back and forth between Naruto and Sai.
"If I didn't know any better I would think you two have a little something extra going on on the side," Konohamaru said suggestively to Naruto and Sai.
Naruto opened his mouth to reply when Sakura put a hand on his shoulder. "Maybe we should get on with the mission details."
"Right," Naruto said reaching into his pants pocket pulling out a folded map. He opened it up and put it on the ground and they all kneeled around it in a circle. "Our objective is located here at Sun Forest. It is located thirty five miles south of Konoha. Eye witness accounts say that they have been seeing people with black cloaks with red clouds hovering around Crystal Waterfall within the forest for the past couple days."
"Akatsuki…damn, they've been quiet for so long I was hoping they just went away," Kiba muttered to himself but it was heard by everyone.
"That would be too easy. Live never throws you a bone, especially to a ninja," Konohamaru said philosophically.
Naruto snapped his fingers regaining their attention, "Here's how we are going to do this. Kiba will be at point with Akamaru as he is the resident tracking specialist. Sakura will be with Kiba to provide him support in the event he needs it occurs. I will be behind acting as back up to Sakura and Kiba. And Konohamaru will be covering our flank. Our mission is to investigate Akatsuki's mission. We are not to engage unless there is no other choice. Clear?"
They all nodded quietly and set out of the South Gate in the formation Naruto laid out for them unsure of their fate at the end of the day.
Akamaru kept his nose up in the air tracking a scent as the team transversed through the trees of the Sun Forest. It was a miracle that the tree trunks could support the weight of the giant dog. The group had been traveling for a little over two hours, stopping only once for a rest. Thirty five miles may be a long travel for a normal person, but to a ninja it was like walking to the grocery store around the corner.
The sun was going down and the sky would have the orange glow to it soon. The tree leaves in the forest were a mixture of reds and yellows, hence why it was called the Sun Forest. Even during the hottest days of summer or the coldest days of winter the leaves of this forest stayed their color. It was eerie to most people, but Naruto found it mystical. It was certainly a different picture than the green Konoha forests surrounding the village.
"Hey Kiba," Naruto called to his tracker, "how much farther?"
Said tracker made a low growling sound which Akamaru growled back to. "Akamaru says we should be coming up on the waterfall shortly," Kiba shouted back to him. True to his word and opening appeared leading into a large open area with a waterfall and a small pool of water it fell into. The waterfall rose about fifty feet into the air, not the biggest water fall, but it was certainly eye catching. Small crystal like stones glinted front the mouth of the waterfall and throughout the falling water it looked like the stones were flowing with it. If it wasn't for the fact that these crystal stones were worthless this waterfall would have people killing each other over it.
"Alright, everyone spread out. Check for traps, look for; trip wires, genjutsu, exploding notes, seal markers and any other stuff you can think of. You know the drill. Once you have completed your search pulse your chakra to show an all clear signal."
The team took their jobs in stride. Kiba and Akamaru circled around the tree line to the right searching for traps while Sakura and Konohamaru circled the left side of the tree line. They would not enter the clearing until they were sure no traps were present. Naruto stayed in his spot up in a large tree surveying the area. The clearing looked perfectly normal to him, he didn't see any evidence of foul play, but he knew that such things could be covered up with a simple genjutsu.
He clasped his hands into a seal and gathered a considerate amount of chakra in them before intoning, "Kai." The chakra he gathered in the hand seal burst forth from his hands over the clearing searching for any kind of chakra distortions both in the area and within his own chakra. He felt his body grow warm for a millisecond signaling to him that there was a genjutsu over the area affecting his perception of what he was looking at. The illusion over the area dropped revealing what was under it.
Naruto eyed the area from afar once again taking in the site. The once lush clearing with green grass was barren; the waterfall no longer was flowing and was dried out leaving only a giant mound of the stone crystals, the tree Naruto stood in no longer had the red and yellow leaves leaving it devoid of life. The biggest thing that caught his eye was the giant seal array carved into the clearing. All around the clearing, the ground, the former waterfall, the trees, seals were engraved. Naruto studied them trying to decipher it, but for the life of him he couldn't figure it out. One of the things he learned while training with the toads was Fuinjutsu, the Art of Sealing, just as Jiraiya and Yondaime had. He certainly was no Yondaime when it came to sealing, but he was no schlep in the art. Who ever made this array must've put years of effort into creating it.
It happened fast, it almost went unnoticed by Naruto. A presence appeared behind Naruto and a voice drifted into his ear. "Hi sweetheart," the voice said jokingly. Naruto, with reflexes born under fire, sprung from the tree trunk into the clearing, his body expertly twisting through the air, as the entire section of the tree he was standing on was cleaved in half by the former Kubikiri Hocho of Momochi Zabuza. The person jumped down from the tree Naruto previously inhabited and landed a about five meters from Naruto.
The white haired man stuck the giant sword into the ground and leaned on it nonchalantly. "Uzumaki Naruto, we were hoping you were the one they would send."
The man's statement put Naruto on edge. If what he said was true then this mission was turning out to be a trap. They knew that Konoha would send someone, and it so happened they wanted him to be the one sent.
"Hozuki Suigetsu," Naruto said, "it has been a long time. Last time I saw you, you were getting your ass kicked by Shikamaru."
"HA, as if that puny Chuunin ever posed a threat to me. His Ninjutsu couldn't handle me, not even when he used his shadows to snap my neck, twice."
Naruto grinned. "I remember your ability to turn your body into water without the use of Kawarimi or water clones. Makes you pretty hard to kill, right?"
The former Mist nin smiled at the blond. "You could say that."
"Why don't you tell me where the others are?" Naruto was referring to whoever Suigetsu was traveling with. Akatsuki never traveled alone; always in pairs did they travel.
"I wasn't supposed to engage anyone that was sent by Konoha. That Sasuke," he grumbled, "always thinking he can just boss people around. You know what I say to that? Fuck 'im, I do what I want when I want."
It was small, but Naruto gave a small shift at the mention of Sasuke. "So, he's with you then? Sasuke is within the perimeter?"
Suigetsu shrugged uncaring. "Don't know, and don't care. Last I saw him he was meditating in the hotel we were bunking at. Now, how about we get down to business?"
Naruto was already in motion before Suigetsu finished. He flew across the clearing, kunai in hand, directly at Suigetsu. The sword wielder reared back and swung the giant sword at the approaching blond. The sword is great for taking down large groups of people, but against single opponents you have to be a master like Zabuza was. Suigetsu, while good, was no Zabuza.
The swing came in slow and predictable. Naruto leapt so that he was above the sword. His feet touched the top of the giant sword and he used it to springboard himself over Suigetsu. His body hung upside down in mid air and as he passed over the white haired man he planted his kunai where his brain stem should rest. The entire exchange happened in seconds.
He landed feet first and turned back to his opponent already expecting the outcome. The body of Suigetsu still stood, but there was no head attached to the shoulders. On the ground was a puddle of water, all of which remained of the old head. The space between the shoulders bubbled for a second before shooting upward forming a new head, unharmed by the kunai.
"Do you have any idea how annoying it is to reform my head?" He charged at Naruto with the Kubikiri swinging at the blond. Naruto ducked under the first swing and had to twist his body away from a quick redirect of the sword. It went on like that for a few moments, Naruto dodging the wide swings of Suigetsu and occasionally destroying an arm or leg of Suigetsu. Naruto kept on backing up as Suigetsu pushed his attack relentlessly.
Naruto felt his back hit one of the trees, backed into a corner by the missing nin. He was cornered and it would be really difficult to dodge any attacks.
"I really expected better of someone that Sasuke is hesitant to fight," Suigetsu mocked as he dashed toward Naruto with great speed. He brought his sword up over his head intending to cut Naruto from head to toe. Naruto watched the incoming swing with no sign of worry. As it started to descend he dropped to one knee and bent his head backward at the tree he was up against.
"Now, Sakura." The "tree" that Naruto had backed up into disappeared and in its place stood the pink haired medic. She pulled back her fist and swung with all her might at the shocked Suigetsu. Not having any time to dodge or stop his bull rush, he did the only thing he could think of. He stopped his swing mid way to intercept the blow from the kunoichi.
The punch struck the Kubikiri Hocho shattering the giant sword. Her fist continued its path and went straight through Suigetsu's head. The head exploded in a mist of water leaving him once again headless.
"Now, Konohamaru," Naruto called out slamming his hand hard against the ground. From behind the headless ninja the last Sarutobi rose from the ground as if it weren't even there. His hands were gliding through well practiced hand seals. He finished the seals and places his hands to the ground, "Doryuuken: Aku." The ground around Suigetsu shifted and bubbled as it rose from the ground forming into a giant hand. Suigetsu just finished spawning his head when the giant hand of earth wrapped around him. He struggled in the hand for a moment, cursing, and then stopped realizing he couldn't escape.
Naruto rose from his kneeling position. "You may be able to dissolve your body and brush off any injury, but not even you can overcome nature. Earth will always beat water. That's why Hokage-sama made sure to give the team an Earth jutsu specialist in case we ran into you again," Naruto explained pointing to Konohamaru as his Earth Ninjutsu expert.
"Yeah well, hoorah for you," Suigetsu spat, clearly pissed off at being so outsmarted by someone he thought below him. "What are you going to do now?"
"I have some questions," Naruto said with a false smile.
Suigetsu smiled back. "Good for you, but unfortunately for you I don't have any answers."
"What are you guys doing with this seal array?" Naruto went on as if he hadn't said anything.
"Beats me, Sasuke and Madara are the brains of this operation. I'm just the hired help."
Naruto nodded at Konohamaru, "Kill him." They obviously weren't going to get anything out of the water user, and Naruto was never one for torture techniques. It's best to leave things like that to the ANBU.
Konohamaru went to make the last seal to crush Suigetsu to death when an arc of lightning shot out of nowhere cleaving the giant hand in half.
"To think that you would someday be able to actually explain something intelligently; the world must be coming to an end," a new voice rang across the barren clearing. The group turned to the new comer. Cloaked in black and the Kusanagi sword resting against his shoulder, Uchiha Sasuke looked as he did years ago, albeit a couple more inches. Flanking him stood the other two members of his special team, Juugo and Karin. Sasuke looked down at Suigetsu, disgust apparent in his eyes, "I thought I told you to not engage the enemy. You were to come get me if it was Naruto that showed up."
Suigetsu freed himself from the hand and dissolved into a puddle and reappeared next to Sasuke. "Yeah yeah, I'm sorry oh great master of everything, Uchiha Sasuke."
"We'll talk about this later. For now, kill the others while I take care of my old friend." Sasuke turned to Naruto with a small smirk, a challenging smirk. "How about a spar, for old times' sake?"
Naruto smiled, not for Sasuke talking about old times, but for the giant shadow passing over head. Team Hawk looked up as the giant form of Akamaru descended down at them. All of them scattered as the dog slammed into the ground causing cracks in the ground to appear. Team Hawk took off in different directions, jumping through the air. While in mid air, Juugo was met by a powerful Gatsuuga from Kiba that knocked him down into the trees. Karin twisted through the air, but was assaulted by a flock of seagulls made of ink that ripped at her skin on her way down to the forest floor. "Go assist Kiba and Sai, I will handle Sasuke," he said without turning to them, staring at Sasuke. He was the only one who didn't scatter away from the dog. Instead he just reappeared on the dogs head.
Sakura protested clearly not happy with the order. "No, I told you years ago that we would do this together. We will both work to bring Sasuke back." The poor girl, Naruto never told her that he no longer considered Sasuke his friend. He just couldn't bring himself to tell her that the next time he fought him that he would be using lethal force. There would be no taking Sasuke back to Konoha and the reformation of Team 7.
Naruto held up a hand stopping her protest. "This is something I have to do alone, Sakura. Go help out the others, especially Kiba, that Juugo is a monster. Konohamaru, you go and find Suigetsu and keep him off my back."
"Right, boss," Konohamaru took off without hesitation toward the spot he saw Suigetsu land, somewhere in the forest. Sakura didn't move at first, unsure of what to do. After a few moments of silence and no word from Naruto she nodded at his back and leapt up into a tree and went to find Kiba.
"And then there was one," Sasuke drawled, "I wonder, Naruto, just how much you have improved since we last fought. The last time we fought you were writhing on the ground like fish on land under my Chidori Nagashi. How much different will part three of our fight be?"
The words were an obviously trap to get Naruto riled up. If he were a few years younger he would have screamed and charged head first without any sort of plan. Now, he was disciplined. It's the reason he was promoted to Chuunin in the first place after his training with the toads.
Naruto opened his hands and waved his hands to the surrounding area. "What are planning to do here, Sasuke?"
Sasuke gestured to the huge seal array surrounding them. "Isn't it beautiful? Madara made it; he's been working on it for almost an entire century."
"And what does this seal do?"
"Isn't it obvious," Sasuke spoke calmly, "it's the next path to accomplish my ambitions."
Naruto started to make a response when he felt movement behind him. He looked back up at Akamaru's head only to find that both the dog and Sasuke were no longer there. "Genjutsu," Naruto snarled angrily. In the span it took Akamaru to land and run back into the trees to Kiba, Sasuke had weaved a genjutsu to make it look as if the dog never left and he dodged by jumping on its head and had the illusion hold a conversation. He felt so stupid; he should have known that Akamaru would never have let anyone stand on his head other than Kiba.
He spun on his heels barely avoiding a devastating thrust from the Kusanagi sword. The sword ripped through the back of his Jounin jacket just barely missing his skin. Naruto spun fully around to find Sasuke coming at him again with the legendary sword. His speed was phenomenal, surpassing even Kakashi's best speed.
Luckily, Naruto had sparred against both Gai and Lee and they were both much faster than this. With practiced precision he twisted away from Sasuke's attempts to slice him up. Naruto squatted down as the sword passed just over his head cutting a few hairs off. That's when Naruto got his opening to attack. From his squatting position he lurched forward aiming a punch at the exposed side of Sasuke. The Sharingan user twisted out of the way and swung his sword around in a wide arc. The sword strike came at Naruto too fast to dodge so he did the next best thing. He stepped in close enough to Sasuke so that their bodies were almost touching. This may have put him in an uncomfortable position, but it took him out of the path of the sword.
Naruto slammed a foot down on top Sasuke's to hold him in place. He swung his head forward slamming a crushing blow into Sasuke's nose. He was satisfied to hear a loud crunching noise telling him he broke Sasuke's nose and blood poured out of it like a faucet. He reared back for another assault when he saw Sasuke's eyes narrow dangerously. By pure instinct alone he felt his mind and body become detached and separate from where he stood and he found himself standing next to a tree at the edge of the clearing. Where he once stood, up close to Sasuke, was a large log that was in the middle of a storm of electricity as Sasuke employed his Chidori Nagashi.
Sasuke noticed the lack of Naruto within the lightning storm and ceased his attack on the log. He threw his body forward toward the ground into a shoulder roll as Naruto appeared behind him thrusting a kunai where one of his kidneys would have been. He swung his sword behind him once he got to his feet cutting the kunai Naruto had thrown in half. Pushing from the ground, Sasuke jumped into the air and flipped his body one hundred eighty degrees to face Naruto, his head pointing to the ground. He thrust his hand out toward his foe, an arc of lightning erupted from his outstretched hand zigzagging the distance in the direction of Naruto.
The arc of lightning crossed the distance in a flash. There was a loud cracking sound and the area Naruto was standing in was blown to pieces. Sasuke started to twist his body so he would land on his feet when a swirl of leaves appeared next to him. From the leaves emerged Naruto, unscathed from the lightning attack, and a Rasengan being thrust at the airborne Sasuke. Being airborne made it impossible to dodge. So, he reached out and latched a hand onto Naruto's extended wrist halting the Rasengan's advance. Using Naruto's arm as leverage he swung his body so that he landed on the outside of Naruto's right arm, out of the path of the Rasengan.
This left Naruto's entire right side open for attack. The Kusanagi flashed upward at Naruto's face, but the blond redirected the path of his Rasengan and brought his right arm up to defend his face. The sword struck the Rasengan with in his hand causing the chakra to go chaotic and blow both Naruto and Sasuke away across the clearing. Sasuke landed in the pile of stone crystals at the base of the nonexistent waterfall and Naruto slammed into one of the dead trees.
Naruto struggled back to his feet as pain shot through his back. Even for a strong ninja, a tree can be devastating. His back ached from the blow against the tree, but he has felt worse in his time. Nothing like a Chidori through the Chest or your skin being ripped apart by poisonous demonic chakra to add to your pain tolerance. Naruto tried to flex his right hand, the one that had held the Rasengan. It was a mangled mess, torn flesh and blood hung from it making his hand look like a piece of raw meat. It wasn't the sword that caused the injury; it was the Rasengan exploding in his hand. He knew that it would be healed in a couple days by the Kyuubi, but the pain was almost unbearable.
From within the stone crystals Sasuke rose from the pile of them. His right arm was cradled against his side, the arm that had held the Kusanagi sword. From what Naruto could see it looked like the force of the explosion had broken his arm.
The Uchiha user glared hatefully at Naruto. "I think we are done for today, Naruto," Sasuke called over to Naruto, "it's time."
Naruto adopted a look of confusion at the statement. "Time for what?"
Instead of answering, Sasuke formed a single seal and placed his hand on the ground. At the top of the dried up waterfall arose a monstrosity. A giant statue with two hands spread out before it and eight eyes rumbled up from the ground. There was another eye, but it wasn't opened. Naruto recognized the statue; it's the statue that Akatsuki uses to extract the Biju from a Jinchuriki. All around him the previous dormant seal array lit up like a beacon tapping both Naruto and Sasuke within the seal.
"What is this," Naruto snarled.
A smile adorned Sasuke's face. Not a normal smile, but one that bordered on the edge of insanity. "This is the past the present and the future. It is the salvation of the Uchiha clan and the destruction of Konoha. With this seal I will set everything right and how it should have been in the first place. You see, Naruto, everyone thought that these crystals were worthless. They have no monetary value compared to the jewelry that comes out of Earth Country. If only they knew the true potential of these stones. A stone that can store chakra could be a huge commodity in the shinobi world. All that I needed was all nine of the tailed demons to power the seal, and with your arrival I now have all nine."
Naruto had never moved so fast in his life. His body rocketed at Sasuke to stop him from doing whatever he planned to do. Just as he got near enough to bury his Kunai in his skull, Sasuke slammed a foot down onto the huge seal, "Activate."
The surrounding area lit up like a mini star. Yellow light poured over the clearing and the forest that could be seen for miles. The human like statue at the top of the waterfall's mouth opened and out came eight different colors of chakra, each one representing a different biju. From beyond the colored chakra emerged a blue light shaped like a dragon. The dragon immediately sought out Naruto, sensing the presence of demonic chakra within him.
Despite his attempts to move his feet stayed glued to the ground. The blue dragon slammed into Naruto throwing his body down to the ground. Pain ripped through his being as he felt the Kyuubi being extracted out of him. He could feel the fox's desperate attempts to fight off the being that had invaded his jailer. Nothing he did worked. Red chakra poured out of his seal into the surrounding area joining the mixture of other colored chakra.
Over by the crystals, Sasuke was muttering under his breath to keep the seal alive. His left hand was firmly placed against the ground to keep the seal from collapsing. Behind him the stone crystals were pulsing in an ethereal white light. Sasuke raised his broken right arm and slammed his hand down on the giant seal, ignoring the pain that shot through his arm. The crystals behind him shot off into the sky. The thousands of little stones came crashing down into the seal, the stored chakra being released into the surrounding area. The light from the seal grew in brightness to the point that it could be seen in the sky all around the continent.
A huge smile overcame Sasuke's features. "It's working," he screamed out to no one. He lifted his hands from the seal and slapped them together, "Fuin." The entire area erupted in a giant explosion engulfing everything. Everyone, including Naruto and Sasuke's team were vaporized and the town resting at the base of the forest blew vanished in a flash of light. The explosion continued its path all until it consumed the entire word, leaving nothing but emptiness.
He was laying on something hard and something was poking painfully into his back. Naruto rolled over and reached under pulling the rock from under him and rolled back onto his back. He opened his eyes and looked up into the blue sky, the occasional cloud drifting by. He shook himself out of Shikamaru's favorite past time and sat up. His right hand was sore, but when he looked at it he noticed that the skin had regenerated and was on its way to be a healthy hand once again.
Naruto climbed to his feet and felt the ache of the battle before in his body. He jogged his memory trying to recall what had happened. Everything quickly came back to him; the mission, the battle and the trap. It all came back in a giant whirlwind of memories. Naruto quickly lifted the tattered remains of his shirt and looked down at his stomach. He funneled a little bit of chakra down to it, but to his utter shock no spiral seal appeared, no evidence to show he ever had the Kyuubi sealed inside of him. He reached within himself digging for the fox's chakra, only to find his own chakra in its place.
"Shit," Naruto exclaimed, "they got the damn fox." That still didn't answer why he was alive. Maybe this is heaven was the thought going through his mind. He looked around and quickly deduced he was not in heaven. He was back in the clearing again, only this time the clearing was full of vibrant green grass, red and yellow leaves and a nice waterfall. He quickly used the cancellation jutsu to dispel any genjutsu, but nothing happened. Naruto quirked an eyebrow at the phenomenon; something like this doesn't happen every day. He placed his fingers into a cross shaped seal, "Kage Bunshin no jutsu."
A dozen copies of himself appeared, all with torn shirts and haggard appearances. "Go and scout the area and look for the others. Tell them to come to the clearing when you find them." He told his shadow clones to go, but inside he was feeling queasy, for some reason he didn't think he team was out in the woods.
The air smelled different. Naruto couldn't put his finger on it, but it just smelled cleaner. He leapt up into one of the trees and rested his body. It wasn't long before he felt the presence of his shadow clones reenter his mind. The information they provided him caused a deep frown to mar his face. There was no trace of anyone within the perimeter. The clones scoured to the very edge of the forest. What was most unsettling was that the village that lived at the edge of the forest wasn't even there. Naruto thought of the explosion destroying it, but according to his shadow clone there's no sign that anything existed there in the first place.
He gathered himself and decided it was time to head back to Konoha. He could only pray that his team made their way back to the village. He needed to get back to the village quickly, just to make sure his team mates lived. Going back by foot would take about two to three hours. He didn't have the patience for that.
So, Naruto walked over to the waterfall. He bit down on his thumb and flipped through some seals and shoved his hand into the water. From the water came the yellow head of a toad no bigger than Naruto's hand. "Yo, how's it going Gamatatsu."
The bubbly toad gave Naruto a huge smile. "Heeey, Naruto. We've been hoping you'd contact us. You got the entire mountain in a frenzy. So...got any candy?"
Unlike his older brother and father, Gamatatsu didn't grow up into a huge frog. Instead he stayed small and was given different duties outside of combat. "Sorry, no candy today. What do you mean I have the entire mountain in a frenzy?"
Gamatatsu scratched at his chin for a second before smiling again. "I'm not sure. Only the counsel knows. I bet you will be getting a visit soon. What can I do you ya today?"
"I need you to take me to the river outside of Konoha."
"Sure thing," Gamatatsu exclaimed in excitement, "hop on in." The toad opened its mouth to unimaginable proportions, big enough to fit a man. Naruto sat himself in the mouth and closed his eyes as Gamatatsu swallowed the blond ninja whole. He sunk back into the waterfall and disappeared from the water. In seconds the toad traveled over thirty miles appearing in a calm river just outside of Konoha. Gamatatsu opened his mouth and Naruto expelled from his mouth.
Naruto landed on his feet and turned to the small frog. "Thanks for the lift." The toad gave a small wave and disappeared with a small pop. Naruto leapt up into the tree and traveled the last mile with great haste. He felt relief as he saw the familiar mountain appear on the horizon, he picked up more speed desperate to get home. As he got closer and closer the uneasiness started to come back, this time tenfold. He slammed on the breaks and looked up at the mountain, the great mountain that bore the faces of the Hokage. Only this mountain didn't have anything on it. No faces, no nothing was on it; just a normal mountain in the middle of a huge forest. Naruto took in the surroundings; no houses, no walls, no people. Nothing. Everything was gone as if it never existed. In its place was a plain mountain and a whole lot of trees.
All he could do was stare in numb shock at the emptiness. His mind was so numb that he didn't feel the tree trunk crashing down on him until it hit his head and knocked him unconscious.
AN: This concludes my first chapter. Review and let me know what you think.
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