Chapter 7 at last... Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto
Sakura ran faster than she had ever run in her life, even as her lungs burned and her chest felt like it was being crushed with the effort. Shaking hair out of her eyes, she cursed – in a very unladylike way – as a sob racked her body when she saw, for the second time in only a few minutes, a massive flare of light rising above the trees. Moments later, the expected rumble like thunder, followed by a great tremor, confirmed it: another explosion. Shaking, Sakura turned to Pakkun, panting heavily as he ran beside her.
"Any idea of what's happening?"
The small dog shook his head. "Your guess is as good as mine. But knowing Naruto, he's right in the middle of it. His and Sasuke's scent are here at any rate. They passed by this way not too long ago – Wait." Pakkun lifted his head, sniffing eagerly as the wind changed. His eyes widened with alarm.
"What? What is it?" Sakura demanded.
"That battle up ahead. It's him and Sasuke, all right," he answered somberly.
"What, they're fighting each other?" Yamato asked in alarm.
"No," Pakkun stated. "They're fighting against… Pain, I think. But he's not alone." The dog growled softly in frustration. It was very difficult to pick out individual scents in the midst of such a fierce battle and mixture of chakra. He looked at Kakashi over his shoulder. "Any ideas?"
The silver-haired shinobi frowned. The scents were just as confusing for him. But for a moment he thought he caught the scent of… No. That couldn't be right. Concentrating as much as he could while running, Kakashi tested the air again. And there it was. It just had to be.
"I'm not sure about this, but…" His eyes hardened as his mind already filled with the consequences of this new development. "It's Danzou. Danzou's fighting out there."
How many tails? He couldn't tell. All around Naruto's body a strange smoky, chakra-filled haze swirled around, making the strangest, bone-chilling shriek that made Sasuke's hair stand on end. This was even worse than he thought. The demon's power was just too much for a human body to handle. Before, in that room, Sasuke had seen the four-tailed state chakra very clearly. And this… this was not like that at all. It was far stronger. And darker.
Through his fear, Sasuke was still amazed, however. The Kyuubi's chakra was overwhelming, but it was somehow far less abrasive than it should have been. The Uchiha narrowed his eyes. 'Just what the hell is going on?'
The battle between Nagato and Naruto – or was it the Kyuubi by this time? – raged on. With a roar of rage and hate, the dark-haired ninja slammed his hands into the ground, sending up a great spike of rock right into the haze surrounding Naruto. There was a terrible groan of broken earth and stone grating on stone as a massive wind from the chakra overload howled, blowing all the hair back from Sasuke's face… And exposing Naruto as it swept away the haze.
Ignoring the bloody tears running down his face, Sasuke forced his eyes to remain in their Sharingan form as he stared, stunned, at the sight before him. 'One, two, three… five tails??'
It was strange, though. Naruto was still somewhat recognizable. His blood no longer mixed with the demon's chakra. Instead, the chakra – a deep, dark red – wrapped tightly around his body. It was so concentrated, it looked solid. Naruto's form was barely a dark silhouette within it. The demon's cloak glinted strangely in some places, forming to look like claws and fangs, and making Naruto's slitted eyes glow.
Sasuke caught the sight just as Naruto's form leapt up, effortlessly, to avoid the deadly spire of rock. So quick that only Sasuke's sharingan could register, he then pivoted in midair and with a great sweep of his arm, sliced the rock cleanly in half with his claws. Sasuke blinked at this. 'So the chakra is solid?'
Before he could even complete the thought, Naruto had already rushed forward towards Nagato in a counterattack. He was blocked, however, by the strongest chakra shield that Sasuke had ever seen. It knocked Naruto's form back a dozen yards, even as it shattered at the impact, sending rocks and debris flying everywhere. The ground shook, and Sasuke had to raise an arm above his head to shield himself.
At first, nothing was visible. Just the dust swirling around, hiding everything from sight. But then the dark, five-tailed form of Naruto rose up, slowly. He snarled furiously, his fangs and claws becoming even more defined. That strange dark haze of overflowing chakra whipped about him, dancing around his body like fire, as though in response to his incredible fury.
He glared over the battleground at Nagato through angry, glowing eyes. He was still on all-fours, but somehow seemed much taller. Imposing and dangerous. He was a creature that demanded the utmost fear and respect.
"Disgusting, pathetic human!" the demon spat in a low growl. Sasuke's heart froze. It was the Kyuubi's voice.
Nagato inhaled sharply in confusion and surprise. "Kyuubi," he breathed. His eyes narrowed "You're different this time. So you're conscious in that form…" Nagato paused, and seemed to consider the situation. Fighting against a possessed Naruto was one thing. Although a competent ninja, Naruto lacked the experience and control to fight properly with the demon's chakra. Now, however, Naruto's body and the Kyuubi's chakra worked in perfect harmony. And not only that, the Kyuubi himself was in control. Awesome power, millennia of experience, a logical mind… it was too dangerous of a combination to be at odds with.
Nagato stood up straight and managed a short bow. "I mean you no disrespect or ill will, Kyuubi," he said quietly. "But I need your power. And in exchange," he smiled slightly, "I will free you of that… human prison."
The Kyuubi crouched, motionless for a moment. Only his five tails moved about him in a slow, smooth rhythm. Then he laughed. It was a low, merciless laugh. Filled with malice. It made Sasuke's blood run cold. Just the fact that such a laugh came out of Naruto made him sick. A demon's laugh and voice… It should never come out of a human, especially Naruto. It was just wrong.
"Pathetic. Truly pathetic," the Kyuubi said, still grinning. Then he grew serious, his grin fading into a condescending snarl. "You humans never change."
"And why does that matter?" Nagato asked. "You will be rid of the Jinchuuriki."
The Kyuubi shook his head. "No, no. You don't understand." He dug his sharp claws into the ground, preparing to attack. "I am not fighting you in self-defense."
Nagato took a step back. "So then what --"
"To destroy," the demon hissed. His killing intent increased dramatically. "I will destroy you filth that brought me so low… the one who dares to undermine my power. Who dares to use my Jinchuuriki for his own, cowardly reasons!" The demon's slitted pupils contracted into thin lines as his fury and excitement grew. His body was tense and perfectly still. "You should have realized," he said softly. "This vessel is closely connected to me through the seal. His chakra and rage fuel my own power." The Kyuubi bared his fangs in a snarl as his eyes narrowed, honing in on the kill. "Allowing Naruto to be tortured was a very, very bad idea."
The demon launched forward with unnatural speed before Nagato could think of a response. He crossed the clearing in the blink of an eye, and slid to a stop right behind his enemy.
"Now," he growled, dangerously calm, "You will die."
The Kyuubi then struck at Nagato, sending the man flying with one powerful swipe. But Nagato was ready. He landed safely, if roughly, on his feet. He glared at the demon standing impassively from across the clearing, and slowly lifted his arm. And then he pointed his finger, right at the demon's chest.
The explosion was fast and loud, little more than a great flash of light and a sound like gunfire. The Kyuubi avoided this easily, but then another followed it. And another. Nagato kept a steady aim, his finger pointed and motionless, sending explosion after explosion. The fox-demon danced around each one with perfect speed and grace, almost as though he was enjoying himself. But then Nagato sent an explosion that hit its mark. There was a brief flash of light, but no sound. Sasuke blinked, his eyes watering from all of the smoke, trying to see what had happened.
Then he saw. The Kyuubi was standing perfectly still and unharmed. And in between his clawed hands was a bright glowing ball, held carefully in check: Nagato's bomb of chakra. The demon smiled – and then threw it with incredible force back to its owner. Nagato didn't stand a chance. It was just too fast and unexpected. There was another flash, a bang, and then only the smell of smoke and sulfur.
When the smoke cleared, it revealed a shinobi with long, dark hair, hunched over. He was cradling his right arm to his chest and breathing heavily. There wasn't much left of the limb, and Sasuke could already smell the putrid scent of burned flesh.
The Kyuubi was on all fours again, and was grinning wildly, his eyes taking on a fierce, excited gleam.
"Not bad, not bad," he growled. "But now the game's over." He grew serious then, and glared at Nagato, his eyes full of contempt. "You, who thought yourself a god, will now face retribution from a demon…" He crouched down, readying himself for the final blow. "Goodbye, human," he stated quietly.
Deep within himself, Naruto was staring uncertainly at the Kyuubi through the bars of the cage.
"He – he's dead, right? You killed Nagato, didn't you?" The Kyuubi didn't answer. He was crouched low inside his cage, panting. Naruto frowned. "This isn't right… I don't like killing. Even a guy like that." The demon laughed then, and raised his head. Naruto swallowed nervously. He didn't like that look in those slitted eyes. They gleamed with some terrible kind of excitement.
"But you liked it, didn't you?" the fox murmured. "The smell of his blood… he was so easy to kill." The demon grinned wildly. "I haven't had the chance to kill in a long time."
Naruto frowned. "That's enough. Enough now. We've had our revenge, so calm down." A tremor ran through the Kyuubi's body. He shut his eyes.
"No," he hissed. "I'm not done yet…" The room began to shake as more chakra leaked out through the bars. Naruto stumbled back. Something was shifting. The fox-demon's chakra was suddenly foreign to him. It was filled with an overwhelming, unbridled bloodlust, completely different from the Kyuubi's anger before.
"Wh-what's going on here?" Naruto whispered. "This isn't supposed to – hey!" He looked down and saw strange chains of chakra binding him to the seal. He was certain now. Whatever control that he had, it was gone. Furious, he glared into the cage. "You damn fox! What the hell is this?"
The Kyuubi laughed low in his chest. "Don't fight your rage, brat. Feed it! Use it to fuel our power." His eyes took on a hungry look. "Come… Let us kill – destroy!"
There was nothing that Naruto could do. He was overcome by the Kyuubi's superior strength of will and power. Dazed, the blonde watched as an arrow of chakra shot into his abdomen, striking deep into the seal on his stomach, which burned at the contact. It hurt terribly. And still there was nothing he could do. Not even struggle. He was riveted by the demon's chakra; by those sinister eyes that held him paralyzed like a mouse before a snake. A strange, wrenching feeling in his body caused Naruto to tremble in fear. He wasn't sure how, but he was certain that more and more of the demon was being drawn out of the seal. And even with his developed resistance to the fox's chakra, he could only take so much… Naruto fell to his knees, trying desperately to control the feeling of despair. The demon laughed again.
"Now," he growled. "Look through my eyes, as I destroy all that ever hurt you…" Naruto had no other choice, anyway. He squeezed his eyes shut against the sudden pressure of chakra, and gritted his teeth against his fear. When he opened them again, it was to see the world through a red haze – and to see someone very precious to him fighting for his life.
Yamato had been terrified when the number 5 burned dark in his palm. It was even worse than he feared. Four tails had been more than enough last time. And for Naruto to lose himself again… he must have been desperate. Or very, very angry. Kakashi, of course, seemed to realize what was wrong right away. His visible eye widened at the subtle shift of chakra in the air, and he looked at Yamato in alarm. After a hasty and breathless conversation, they ran on, even faster than before; driven by icy fear as they prepared for what lay ahead. There was no way it would be good.
Yamato ground his teeth together as the chakra just ahead grew stronger and stronger. He could easily feel it now, and it worried him. This chakra wasn't what he expected. And when he thought about it, he had doubts that it was even something that his own seal placed on Naruto could recognize. 'No wonder… but what the hell is happening?'
"We've made it." Sakura stated, strangely calm. She was gazing fixedly ahead through the thick branches as she quickened her pace even further. Yamato swallowed and nodded, steadying himself, despite his breakneck speed and heart-pounding nerves. There, just ahead, they could see the Kyuubi's chakra, moving like bloody smoke between the trees. Just a little further, and they'll be right in the middle of it. They could only hope that they were ready.
And that's when they heard the scream.
Somehow, Sasuke had been expecting the attack. He could see it in the subtle shift in the fox demon's body as he looked up from the broken body of Pain. The shedding of blood had excited the demon, and whatever control Naruto had, whatever self-restraint held the Kyuubi back, it was gone. Fevered red eyes met Sasuke's own, and then it was over.
Once again, the Sharingan saved the Uchiha from what would have been a certain death. With as much speed as he could muster, Sasuke dived to one side, narrowly avoiding first a clawed fist, and then a lashing tail. He pushed himself to his feet, and once again had to dive out of the way of a vicious attack. Again and again Sasuke dodged, his body pushed way beyond its limit, trying desperately to keep up with the incredible speed and insight of his crimson eyes.
The Kyuubi snarled with rage as his attacks continued to miss their target. His movements were becoming more erratic now, driven mad by the smell of blood. It was hardly an advantage for Sasuke, however. If anything, it made matters worse as the demon's attacks only became more powerful, and as his chakra level continued to rise at an alarming rate. And with a rush of horror, Sasuke saw that a sixth tail was emerging.
"Naruto," he choked, diving out of the way of a blow that crumbled the earth beneath it. "What's happening to you?" The Kyuubi's furious roar almost deafened him, and he had to duck to avoid another swinging tail. "Shit!" he hissed. "The hell is the matter with you, dobe?!"
Sasuke's fear and worry was like a vice around his chest. Naruto was in serious trouble. He couldn't take this anymore.
With a rush of energy he didn't know he even had anymore, Sasuke rushed forward and slammed his fist into the Kyuubi's jaw with as much force as he could.
"Snap out of it, Naruto!" he snarled.
Caught by surprise, the demon fell back, knocked off his feet. With an angry snarl, however, he spun around and caught himself with his tails. In one smooth motion, he swung forward on all fours and crouched down, glaring at Sasuke with pure venomous hatred in his eyes. Sasuke glared back, breathing hard. The Kyuubi's lips pulled back into a snarl, and his entire body tensed, preparing for another deadly attack. Sasuke was about to take a step back when he saw it. It was just for a moment, but a strange flicker of something crossed the fox's eyes. Sasuke took in a breath as recognition hit him. 'Naruto, is that y --'
Nothing could have prevented the scream that tore through Sasuke's throat. He suddenly found himself pinned against a rock, a vicious, clawed hand at his neck, and the most horrible, burning sensation at his stomach. Gritting his teeth against the pain, Sasuke looked up into the eyes of the demon fox, who had regained control over himself.
With numb hands, Sasuke reached up in one last desperate attempt to save his life, and formed a short series of hand seals. And then, very slowly, he reached his arm up, hand outstretched, praying that his attack would form in time. Somewhere behind him, he thought he heard someone shouting, but it all seemed very far away.
The Kyuubi, meanwhile, hadn't moved. His hand still gripped Sasuke's throat tightly, but his body had gone rigid. And his eyes… they were squeezed shut as he took in shallow, ragged breaths.
"No," he hissed. Sasuke looked up, eyes wide. It was Naruto's voice. "Sasuke…" The clawed hand released his throat as the demon stumbled back, snarling.
"You!" the fox snarled, snapping his head to one side. It was the Kyuubi's voice again. He was on all fours now, claws digging into the earth, tails whipping around furiously. His chakra wavered, unstable with the conflicting sources of power within its source. And then the demon's form lifted his head and looked Sasuke straight in the eye. Sasuke gaped, stunned at what he saw.
It was the Mangekyu Sharingan.
"Sasuke…!" Naruto's voice came out in a choked sob as he saw, through the Kyuubi's eyes, his most precious person diving away from an attack again and again. The demon's low laughter mocked his pain.
"That's it, brat," he hissed. "Feel your pain and anger building --"
The sudden punch to the face caught the Kyuubi by surprise. And for just a moment, Naruto seized control. He saw Sasuke, exhausted and bleeding, through clear eyes. But it lasted for only a moment. With an angry snarl from the demon, his eyes clouded over in a red haze once again, and he could only watch, helpless, as the Kyuubi made one more attack, pinning Sasuke against a rock.
When he saw that, his most precious person about to die, Naruto lost it.
"Sasuke!" he screamed, "Sasuke!!" He lost all sense of everything else, even the Kyuubi, as he screamed the Uchiha's name over and over, his heart swelling with the unbearable urge to protect him, no matter what the cost.
With a roar of rage the Kyuubi brought him back to the chamber holding the seal, but Naruto barely noticed. Cursing, crying, he thrashed around, straining against the chains that bound him to the seal. And every pull caused those chains to crack, to give just a little more, until with one final heave, he broke free. And then he heard a voice, soft and calm inside his head.
"Well done…" Naruto went rigid, recognizing the voice at once. 'Itachi…?' He felt, swelling within him, a large, dark reserve of power spreading, like soft crow wings. And even though he couldn't see it, Naruto could swear he felt the owner of that voice smiling. "Now go and protect my little brother… My only little brother…"
Naruto took in a deep breath as the power enveloped him completely. Somehow, though he had no idea why, the blonde knew what to do. He opened his eyes, and stared right at the Kyuubi behind the bars of the cage. And then he spoke, giving the fox one final, simple command.
Sakura caught Sasuke as he fell forward He was clutching at the gaping wound in his abdomen, and was still staring, transfixed, at what Sakura could only guess was Naruto. His arm was still outstretched, now reaching toward the demon's form. His eyes never left the fox's face, who's eyes met his own. They were staring at each other, motionless, with that strange and powerful blood limit. Sakura blinked. 'Wait, did Naruto's eyes just --?'
"Brother…?" Sasuke whispered. His voice was soft and broken, barely audible.
Sakura frowned and bit her lip as she began to lay him down. "Sasuke-kun --"
"Sasuke-kun!!" Sakura's head snapped up at the woman's voice just in time. Several kunai ripped through the air out of nowhere, and she had to dive out of the way, leaping away from the Uchiha's still form. Behind her, Kakashi and Yamato cursed as three figures leapt down from the trees and came to a stop, right between them and Sasuke.
"You Konoha filth aren't getting any nearer to our Sasuke," the kunoichi stated. She was glaring at Sakura.
"Or Naruto," her larger teammate added. He stepped to the side, closer to the blonde's still, fox-like form.
Sakura's eyes narrowed at the challenge, even as her head swam with confusion. 'Our Sasuke? And Naruto?'
Kakashi took a step forward, palms held up. "Now listen, we're not --"
"Stay back!" the third shinobi snapped. He raised his large, bandage-clad sword threateningly. Kakashi stopped dead.
"That sword," he murmured. "Isn't that… Samehada?"
The shinobi grinned, revealing sharp teeth. "Don't give me an excuse to use it, now."
Sakura clenched her hands into fists. "Oh come on, stop this already! We're here for our teammates! Now get out of the way, they're both hurt!"
The kunoichi raised an eyebrow and crouched down beside Sasuke. "Your teammates?" Sakura opened her mouth to make a scathing reply, but was interrupted by the swordsman.
"Oho, so you're Sasuke and Naruto's old team?" he asked, grinning. "Interesting, very interesting." He widened his stance, eager for battle, when his larger teammate glanced sideways at him.
"Suigetsu, calm down. This isn't the time."
Suigetsu snorted. "And who are you to be the boss here?"
Ignoring them, Yamato made his way carefully to where Naruto lay on the ground. The Kyuubi's chakra was rapidly dispersing, falling away from the blonde's body in dark, crimson layers like thick smoke. Naruto's eyes were slowly drifting closed, hiding the Sharingan. His face lined with surprise and worry, Yamato hurried forward, but Juugo was quick to block him.
"I told you. You're not getting anywhere near him."
Yamato glared at the taller shinobi. "Naruto needs help. Out of my way. Now." The other man didn't move. Yamato's eyes hardened, and he began to slowly pull out a katana strapped to his back. "Then I've got no choice…"
Kakashi, meanwhile, had to leap out of the way of Suigetsu's attack, which shattered the earth where he'd been standing only a moment ago. Without any hesitation, the copy ninja moved with effortless speed, and disappeared, only to reappear again, very close to the sword bearer.
"Forget it," he said quietly. "You all are too tired for this. You've already been fighting --"
He was cut off as Suigetsu swung around, lifting Samehada in a high arc before slamming it into the ground, raising a cloud of dust. Kakashi slid to a stop further back, and threw several katana with blinding speed. Suigetsu lifted his sword just in time to block them, cursing.
"You're outmatched," Kakashi stated, calmly.
Suigetsu growled and shouted a response, but Sakura wasn't listening. She was striding confidently to where the shinobi with glasses was crouched protectively over Sasuke. Sakura raised her fist threateningly.
"Your turn," she stated, glaring. "Now move it." Her opponent's eyes narrowed as she stood up again, moving as though to shield Sasuke.
"I'm not going anywhere," she snapped. She was bleeding and taking in frequent, shallow breaths, but stood her ground. For the span of a few seconds, no one moved. All six shinobi faced each other, sizing each other up, their bodies tense and trembling with deadly intent.
They were so fiercely focused in that moment, that no one noticed a dark figure leaping at Naruto, or that Sasuke was on his feet, desperately running to the blonde's side. No one noticed anything in those brief, crucial moments, until the heavens split apart.
"Brother…?" He could barely force the words out, but Sasuke didn't care. He was surprised, relieved, but most of all transfixed by those eyes that he thought he'd never see again. He knew it was Itachi. It had to be.
All around him, the Uchiha could sense his teammates, both old and new, standing nearby. Someone was shouting something, but he hardly noticed. His entire world revolved around those eyes that were so much like his own. He didn't know what was going on, but he felt oddly comforted. Whatever the reason, those eyes saved his – and Naruto's – life.
Sasuke winced at the buildup of electric power smothering the area. It all hung in a precarious balance, needing release. Sasuke had only to focus it, to release it with the chakra still built up in his hand, but there was nowhere to direct it. Sasuke's breath let out in a hiss as Naruto – no, Itachi's – eyes drifted closed. He looked at his outstretched hand. He no longer needed *Kirin, Naruto had seen to that. He just needed to find a way to release it…
Dark movement behind Naruto caught his eye. Sasuke's head snapped up in alarm. 'No way…'
It was Nagato.
The Uchiha's body shook as he tried to push himself up, filled with a new rush of adrenaline. This was bad. How could the guy survive an attack from the Kyuubi like that? But there was no time to wonder. Silently, and with incredible speed, Nagato rushed forward, his katana drawn and aimed right at Naruto.
With more speed than he could have possibly had at that moment, Sasuke rushed to his teammate's side, bringing his right arm down in a slashing motion as he did so.
It was the most devastating Kirin that he had ever released. The blinding lightning attack hit its mark perfectly, engulfing Nagato's body before the ninja had even blinked. With a deafening crack, and then a roar, the bolt of light expanded and grew in intensity, feeding off the massive buildup of energy in the clearing. It was meant to be a fast attack, hardly lasting more than a moment, but in that short time, it felt like the most powerful thing imaginable. Like the plane between earth and sky was being wrenched apart. Shutting his eyes tightly, Sasuke lay on the ground, trying to shield Naruto's body with his own, even if there was nothing he could do. The lightning was out of his control now.
Just as suddenly it began, the flash of light was over. It left in its wake a hushed and amazed quiet.
With a soft groan, Sasuke rolled to one side. He energy was completely spent now. There was nothing left. Warm, soft earth seemed to reach out, grounding the Uchiha's worn body. Sasuke turned his head and focused his gaze on Naruto's face as his vision dimmed. He smiled. Naruto's own eyes, a deep blue, opened and met his. The blonde also smiled. They said nothing, neither of them had the strength, but there was no need to. The warm fire burned brightly between them, and they both knew that, for once, they had everything they wanted; found in each other.
* Kirin: Named after a mythical creature in Japanese lore (i think)
a/n: Just about done! Thank you thank you thank you for your patience! One more chapter left, I think, just to tie it all together! :) And thank you very much for reading this!