A/N: Sorry for the long wait. I hope you enjoy the chapter.
Chapter Forty-Two: The Chaos Continues
Minato landed in front of the barrier preventing the gathered ANBU from helping the Sandaime fight against Orochimaru.
Sarutobi was holding his own but the tide could always turn and Minato wasn't going to risk the life of his predecessor.
He could easily enough get across the barrier by himself using Hiraishin but he wanted to increase the Sandaime's odds as much as possible, meaning the barrier had to go.
He scanned the barrier critically, searching for any weakness that he could take advantage of…
On one of the sides, one of the four shinobi enforcing the barrier wasn't placing the same amount of chakra into the barrier as the other three, creating a fluctuance in the barrier.
As Minato approached the weakness, Orochimaru cast a jutsu Minato had only ever read about, causing him to gape in shock.
Two coffins shot out of the ground, denoted 'one' and 'two.' A third coffin with 'four' on it began to pop up and Minato felt his body flicker.
Orochimaru was trying to resurrect the fallen Hokage, including him.
A clawed hand shot out of nowhere and grabbed Minato, locking him in his current form and causing his coffin to burst into eerie purple flames.
Looking behind him, Minato was surprised to see who had prevented him from being at Orochimaru's beck and call.
"You are my champion. I won't let the snake steal you for his own purposes. He must be defeated and the two souls taken from their rightful place returned," the deity declared.
"I understand," Minato acknowleged with a nod. "I just have to get past the barrier."
"Allow me to be of assistance," the Shinigami said gruffly as he infused Minato with some of his chakra. "Use my gift well."
Minato nodded as the Shinigami vanished. He approached the barrier with a solemn look on his face. He wanted to end this quickly so that he could help his son.
Minato charged up a large Rasengan, enforced with the Shinigami's chakra, making it pitch black versus the normal vibrant blue.
Zeroing in on the weak point, Minato drove the sphere into it with a loud battle cry.
The barrier's defenses quickly kicked in and Minato was immediately set aflame.
Gritting his teeth, Minato bore through it.
Everyone in the vicinity stopped what they were doing as they caught sight of the strange flaming, humanoid silhouette that appeared at the edge of the barrier. They had seen nobody approach the barrier, so who was it that was set on fire?
Unlike the barrier's other victim, the figure didn't recoil back but kept driving into the barrier until – to Orochimaru's shock – the barrier shattered into multiple pieces. The force of it knocked out the Sound Four.
"How is this possible?" Orochimaru raged as the fire died out, leaving nothing behind to reveal the culprit. With the Sound Four out of commission, the barrier couldn't be remade.
The ANBU quickly rushed in to assist the Sandaime but against the combined force of Orochimaru, the Shodaime and Nidaime Hokage, the chances off victory were slim. Nevertheless, they would fight with all of their strength to support their Hokage and protect their home.
It was times like this that Sarutobi wished Minato was still alive. He was certain that if his successor had still been in charge of things, the Invasion wouldn't have even happened. He would have taken care of things before they had even progressed this far.
He felt a brush of chakra and it almost made him feel like the Yondaime Hokage was really there with him.
Sarutobi steeled his resolve. They would defeat Orochimaru even if it cost him his life.
Sasuke watched with dispassionate eyes as Temari crumpled into unconsciousness. He could take care of her permanently but she wasn't his primary concern.
'I'm coming for you, Gaara.'
He continued to give chase, still able to sense Gaara's turbulent chakra.
With his well earned new speed, he was on Kankurou and Gaara in no time.
"You're not going anywhere," Sasuke insisted, blocking their path.
Kankurou bit back a curse. This was the last thing they needed right now. Gaara was growing more unstable by the second.
"Where's Temari?" the puppeteer queried, fearing for his sister.
"She's the least of your concerns. I've got some unfinished business with Gaara that needs to be taken care of," Sasuke replied, eyes trained on the pale Gaara.
Kankurou glared. He really didn't like the Uchiha.
"Your 'business' can wait," he responded. "Get out of our way."
"No," Sasuke said flatly.
"Damn," Kankurou spat before throwing a few smoke bombs to obscure Sasuke's view long enough for him to drag Gaara off into a different direction.
He knew the maneuver wouldn't delay Sasuke for long so he hid Gaara in the bushes before going to face the Uchiha.
Sasuke scowled when he noticed Gaara was gone. "Where is he?"
"I won't tell," Kankurou vowed as he took out Karasu in preparation for battle.
"Why are you so willing to go so far for him? He's not worth it," Sasuke demanded.
"Gaara is worth everything and more. He's our little brother… we haven't done a good job at being there for him in the past but that changes now. It's a big brother's duty to look out for his younger brother and I don't intend to fail," Kankurou yelled.
Kankurou's words brought out a long buried source of pain in Sasuke's heart. It was Itachi's job to look out for him and he'd failed spectacularly. Why did a psychopath like Gaara get what he had been denied?
Sasuke let out a loud cry of rage as he lunged at Kankurou.
The puppeteer fought long and hard against Sasuke but he eventually fell under the force of the avenger's rage.
"I'm sorry… Gaara," Kankurou whispered before he lost consciousness.
It was at that point that Gaara stumbled out, looking decidedly bloodthirsty.
"You're going to pay for betraying Naruto," Sasuke promised.
Gaara looked unfazed. "Uzumaki? I don't give a fuck about him… I just want to prove my existence and you will help me do that."
Sasuke felt his neck burn as the Cursed Seal threatened to activate in response to his anger.
"You don't deserve his love," Sasuke snarled as he attacked Gaara with the intent to kill.
'What's up with this girl? She's completely different than she was last month…' Michiru thought. Ino had become more adept in all aspects of battle and the Iwa kunoichi couldn't comprehend the girl's newly found strength. What scared Michiru more than Ino's skills was the feral manner in which she fought. She seemed almost like an animal…
Shivers ran down her back as Ino glared at her with her red slitted eyes. "Just what are you? If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were a Jin-" she was cut off as Ino grabbed her by the neck, stopping her words flat.
"You're right in a way," Ino purred, flashing a fanged grin. "Just… not a conventional one."
She then proceeded to punch Michiru clear through a wall, knocking her out.
She turned to Kiba gaping at her from where he and Akamaru stood over the downed Osamu. "How did you do that?"
"My secret," Ino responded as she stalked off.
"Where are you going?" Kiba called out.
"To help my brothers!" Ino exclaimed.
"You don't have any brothers!" Kiba pointed out.
"Naruto and Gaara are my brothers," Ino declared firmly. "Not by blood but by bond. Now are you coming?"
Kiba and Akamaru looked at each other before racing after Ino, wondering silently why Ino smelled like a vixen.
"Shikamaru will be fine, Naruto," Hinata reassured Naruto. "He's smart enough to find a way out of any situation. He's proven that countless times."
"I know…" Naruto responded, though he remained worried. None of them had ever been in a war before. He shook his head. It wasn't like him to be so pessimistic. He could only hope for the best. "How much further?" he asked, steeling himself for what was to come.
"We're almost there," Hinata said with a small frown on her face. "Sasuke-kun and Gaara-kun are fighting and Sasuke-kun is leaving."
Naruto swore. They had to reach them before Gaara killed Sasuke.
"I'm going ahead. Meet me there and be ready to tend to Sasuke. I'll stop Gaara," Naruto declared firmly. "Kai!" He dispelled the Gravity Seals and raced on ahead.
Hinata couldn't help but smile. Naruto was a natural leader… now if only everyone else could see that.
Sasuke knew he was losing but he refused to accept it. There was no way that he could.
He had trained so long and hard… and yet here he was, unable to get the upper hand against Gaara.
At this rate, he would never defeat Itachi…
Sasuke pushed back the despair. He couldn't afford to die here. He was an Avenger and until he fulfilled his goal, he wouldn't rest.
The Cursed Seal began to spread across him as Sasuke willingly accepted the dark power.
Sasuke had only managed a maximum of one Chidori before, exhausting his ability to use it without causing himself harm but with the seal's power running through him, he had the strength to produce just one more. He would have to make it count.
Gaara grinned sadistically as he saw Sasuke get back to his feet. This boy amused him. He'd been right about him.
Uchiha Sasuke would prove his existence.
With a loud, joyous cackle, Gaara lunged at Sasuke with the intention of killing him once and for all…
Sasuke went to meet him, arms crackling with electricity.
Neither of them made impact as a massive gust of wind forced them apart.
Both fighters straightened up to see Naruto and Hinata standing in between them.
"Stop fighting!" Naruto demanded, glowering at them.
"Get out of the way, Naruto. I almost had him!" Sasuke yelled, furious that Naruto interfered. He didn't know if he could muster up another Chidori at this rate…
"That's why I stopped you," Naruto retorted. "I won't let you hurt my brother!"
Sasuke's temper flared. "Brother?! He betrayed you! His village is attacking us as we speak!"
"Gaara's not a part of it," Naruto insisted. "Somebody did something to him!"
"That's your own naïve belief," Sasuke said. "He's clearly out of his mind. He needs to be taken care of! He's a monster!"
Naruto's eyes darkened. "Gaara is no more a monster than I am, Sasuke. Now back off. I'll deal with this situation."
"Ths is my fight," Sasuke argued.
"It was never your fight," Naruto replied. "There are many other battles going on that could use your help. Now leave."
"I'm not going anywhere," Sasuke said.
"Then stay out of the way," Naruto said coldly, frustrated with his stubborn teammate. He nodded to Hinata and she leaped over to be by Sasuke's side to ensure that he would't try anything.
Naruto turned to Gaara, who glared at him hatefully.
"You're no brother of mine, Uzumaki," Gaara declared.
It hurt Naruto to hear Gaara deny their bond even when he knew that Gaara held no memory of it. "I'll make you remember…" he vowed, balling his hands into fists. "I won't let you severe this bond!"
"Try and stop me!" Gaara sneered, a maniacal gleam in his eyes. "Fight me if you dare, Uzumaki. Make me feel alive!"
'How am I going to get out of this situation?' Shikamaru thought as he stared at the Oto nin he'd captured using his Kage Mane no jutsu. He didn't have enough chakra to use any of his fancier jutsu on all of them. At the most, he could take out a couple of them but then the rest would be free to kill him.
A memory of Naruto's worried and pleading face flashed through his mind. He really didn't want to let the blonde down.
'It looks I'll have to break my promise, Naruto… the least I can do is take a few enemies out with me,' Shikamaru thought as he prepared his next move.
"Gatsuuga!" a loud voice yelled out and two tornadoes swept through the clearing, brutally knocking out all of Shikamaru's enemies. Shikamaru barely managed to release his jutsu to keep from getting flung around.
Kiba and Akamaru skidded to a halt near Shikamaru, flashing the kage nin big fanged grins. "Thanks for holding them still," Kiba stated.
"Arf!" Akamaru agreed.
"What are you guys doing here?" Shikamaru asked in surprise.
"We came to help, of course," Ino said as she jumped down from a nearby tree.
Shikamaru studied his teammate silently. There was something feral about her… "Are you alright, Ino?"
"I'm fine, why wouldn't I be?" Ino gave Shikamaru a weird look.
"You seem different," he replied with narrowed eyes. Was it just him or did she have red eyes?
"I'm the same as always," Ino said hotly.
"If you say so," the kage nin shrugged.
"Let's get going! The longer we wait, the longer Hinata's in danger~" Kiba exclaimed impatiently.
Shikamaru and Ino looked at each other before nodding. "Let's go," they agreed simultaneously.
Iruka groaned in pain as he woke up. He tried to shift into a more comfortable position but found that his movements were restricted. His eyes snapped open but he couldn't see anything.
Iruka frantically tried to recall how he ended up like this. The last thing he remembered was…
The Iwa nin fooled him completely. Iruka thought he was a friend and he was anything but.
"You're awake," somebody said. It wasn't Jin.
Iruka's nose scrunched in thought. The voice sounded young. If it wasn't Jin, it must be one of his students. He scanned his memory, trying to place the voice. "You're Daichi, aren't you?"
"You remember me?"
Iruka smiled. "I never forget a child."
Daichi scoffed. "I'm not a child."
"You can't be much older than Naruto. That makes you a child in my eyes," Iruka pointed out.
"Don't mention him to me," Daichi snarled. He was furious about his loss against Shikamaru.
"What do you have against him?" Iruka asked. "What did he do to you?"
"It's not what he did," Daichi replied. "His father killed mine."
"His father?" Iruka repeated. "You know who his father is?"
"You mean you don't know?" Daichi voiced his surprise before snorting. "It figures. I thought Hatake would have told you for sure."
"Kakashi knows?" Iruka asked.
"Of course he knows. Hatake was Naruto's father's prized goon. Now he acts as Naruto's guard dog," Daichi sneered. "There's no way he doesn't know?"
Iruka thought over what Daichi said. Prized goon… student? Kakashi was the only surviving student of the Yondaime Hokage, meaning… "Naruto is the Yondaime Hokage's son," he realized. It made a lot of sense the more he thought about it.
"It's amazing that more people haven't realized that," Daichi grumbled. "He looks just like him. then again, I guess hatred and grief blind people to the truth, given the burden your bastard Yondaime Hokage dumped on him."
"You're talking about the same hatred and grief that's blinding you," Iruka said.
"It doesn't matter to me whether or not he's a Jinchuuriki," Daichi said hotly.
"Maybe not but you do care about who his father is," Iruka countered. "Naruto isn't what he holds inside him and he's not his father. Don't take your anger out on him. He doesn't deserve it, not after the life he's lived. He's suffered enough."
"You make it seem so easy to let go of all the anger," Daichi said. "I've been holding onto it for years."
"Isn't that enough? I've seen what anger and hatred has done to one of my students. I don't want anyone else to go through the same thing," Iruka said.
"You're talking about Uchiha Sasuke," Daichi realized.
Iruka nodded. "When I first met him, he was the sweetest child. After the massacre, he became a bitter shell of himself. He's so trapped in his own darkness, I'm afraid he will never find his way out. Don't go down the same pathy. It will destroy you."
"I don't see why you care. I'm your enemy," Daichi frowned.
"We don't have to be," Iruka replied.
Despite himself, Daichi hesitated. Iruka made a lot of sense. He was also too nice for his own good. He made Daichi want to believe him…
It was a shame that he'd caught Jin's eye.
"Daichi," a new voice declared.
Both Iruka and Daichi stiffened. Jin was here.
"What is it, Sensei?" the Iwa Genin queried, turning to the Jounin.
"Your job here is done. Go find Uzumaki and deal with him. He's busy using up all of his energy fighting the Suna Jinchuuriki. By the time he's done, he should be ripe for the picking," Jin sneered.
"Yes, Sensei," Daichi said obediently, not showing his conflicting emotions.
"Don't hurt Naruto! If you touch a single hair on his head…" Iruka yelled angrily, mostly at Jin.
Daichi whirled around to see that Jin backhanded Iruka, glaring at him viciously.
"Shut up, bitch. Worry about yourself," Jin snaped before turning to Daichi. "What are you waiting for? I'll deal with him. Go."
Daichi hesitated for a few seconds before turning around again.
"One more thing, Daichi… if you disappoint me again, you won't like the consequences," Jin said darkly.
Daichi felt a chill go down his back. He wouldn't wish Jin's punishment on anyone. He took one last look at Iruka. 'I'm sorry.'
"Konoha Senpuu!" Lee yelled as he knocked another Oto nin away from Sakura. "Don't worry, Sakura-san, I'll protect you until my last breath."
"Please don't go that far," the injured kunoichi said worriedly. She didn't want Lee to die on her account.
"Heads up, there's more coming our way," Neji informed them, Byakugan flaring.
"Yosh! If I don't defeat more than you, Neji, I'll do a thousand one-fingered push ups!" Lee vowed.
Neji smirked. "Sounds like a challenge," he replied as they continued to fight their way towards where the evacuating civilians and Academy students were.
It tok them a while but they managed to get to where the Academy students were. It took Neji less than a second to note the agitation and worry permeating the group. "What's wrong?"
"That big scary nin from Iwa attacked us," Moegi exclaimed, fidgeting around anxiously.
"He took Iruka-sensei!" Konohamaru yelled, enraged.
"What?!" Sakura exclaimed in horror.
"Why would he take our noble sensei?" Lee frowned.
"To get to Naruto… and Kakashi-sensei," Sakura reported. "Jin hates them both and Iruka-sensei is important to them. What better way to hurt them?"
"We have to tell Boss!" Konohamaru insisted. "He'd know what to do."
"He's busy fighting Gaara," Neji said, looking towards the forest. "If we tell him, he may get distracted."
"We'll go to Kakashi-sensei!" Sakura said. "He'll save Iruka-sensei! I'll go get him. You guys go on ahead."
"You're injured, Sakura-san. I won't let you go alone. I'll come with you to protect you," Lee declared.
"I'll find Iruka-sensei," Neji replied. "The longer he's in Jin's hands, the more danger he's in."
"You can't fight him by yourself!" Sakura argued.
"I know but I can at least buy you some time," the Hyuuga said.
"He won't be alone!" a voice popped up and the group turned to see Chouji, TenTen and Shino running up to them.
"Shino-kun and Chouji-kun will accompany Neji-kun to fight Jin," TenTen said. "I'll join you and Lee to get Kakashi-sensei. We work best in teams of three, right?"
"They're a little mixed up," Sakura mused.
"That may be the case but it'll work," TenTen said with conviction. "We're all Konoha nin, working together shouldn't be a problem."
"You're right," Sakura agreed. "Let's go."
The two teams of three jumped into action, going in separate directions.
"So cool…" Konohamaru said in awe.
"Fifty!" Gai crowed in victory as he defeated yet another enemy.
"Fifty-three," Kakashi reported his own count.
Gai turned red. "So cool, Kakashi. I'll beat your count. If I don't, I'll walk around the entire village on my hands one hundred times!"
"You do that," Kakashi shrugged in disinterest.
They fell into the monotony of battle until the point that's they heard Kakashi's name being called. They looked up to see Lee, Sakura and TenTen rushing over to them.
"What are you doing here, Sakura? I told you to join the people evacuating," Kakashi reprimanded. "You can't fight right now."
"That doesn't matter right now, Kakashi-sensei," Sakura dismissed his words. "Jin has Iruka-sensei."
Kakashi's blood ran cold. "What?"
"Konohamaru-kun said Jin attacked them and kidnapped Iruka-sensei," Sakura stated.
Kakashi hadn't felt this conflicted since the fateful day at Kannabi bridge. On one hand, he wanted to race over to save his love but on the other hand, there was the Invasion to think about.
"Go, Kakashi. I'll fight your share as well!" Gai encouraged him. "Protect your precious people and show everyone the power of Youth!"
Kakashi looked at Gai in surprise. The man grinned widely and winked at him. for once, Kakashi didn't mock Gai's antics. "Thank you."
"Neji-kun, Chouji-kun and Shino-kun went to confront Jin," Lee told the masked nin.
"We better hurry then," Kakashi said as he summoned Pakkun. "I can't let any of our cute Genin and our beloved Academy sensei get hurt. My otouto would never forgive me."
Receiving his instructions, Pakkun led the team towards where he could detect Iruka's scent the strongest.
'Hang on, Iruka… I'm coming.' Kakashi promised.