Sorry this took so long. This chapter was not easy to write, actually I was trying to write Iruka's part specifically, agonising over it for weeks. Then I started to work, and things just started to just pile up. This chapter may be short but it's a huge part of the plot! Enjoy!
Chapter 32: The past, never ending
"Welcome to Kumogakure, in the Land of Lightning," he said.
Naruto gasped at the sight before him. His legs were week, almost ready to collapse beneath him. He was in the Land of Lightning! This was a completely human territory, miles away from home. The pups whimpered feeling the distress of their mother, and Naruto held them tighter. He looked around himself at the unfamiliar buildings, the most prominent being the one in front of him, where many more masked humans stood in rows leading up to the large tower. The door opened slowly and out came a row of people all dressed in white robes, the most prominent one being the leading man who had his face partially covered by a conical hat.
As he came closer Naruto could make him out better; he was tall with bright blonde hair, and when he looked up he noticed that the human had bright sky blue eyes that matched his own. The man came to a stop in front of the older man, talking to him in low hushed tones before he looked over the broad man's shoulder to stare directly at Naruto's face. His blue eyes suddenly brightened with unknown hope, he pushed past the older man until he came to a stop in front of Naruto, a kind smile spreading over his face.
"It's good to finally meet you," he said, his voice deep and soothing. It was like a calming effect washing over him. "I had been waiting for you for a long time, Naruto."
The kitsune didn't know what was going on, how did this human know his name? "How… how do you know my…?"
"It's what your mother said he would name you," the human answered.
"How did you…" Naruto started to feel dizzy, his body battered and bruised. He swooned, nearly falling forward only to feel two warm reassuring hands gently gripping onto his shoulders to steady him.
The pups whimpered out in fear, but Naruto was too tired to reassure or fuss over them. He said nothing as he felt himself being lifted up in bridal style. The man was shouting some things, but Naruto couldn't really make out any of it. His eyes rolled up as he was rushed inside the large building towards the many hallways until he heard the sound of a door being opened, and then he was laid down on a soft feathery bed.
"I apologize, I should have gotten you inside to rest sooner. Jiraiya told me about the terrible things that happened to you. I knew I shouldn't have let you and Kurama go," the man murmured, his warm hands moving some of his hair away from his sweaty brow.
Some people came inside bringing in a large wash basin filled with water and towels. The human took one of the small towels and dipped it into the water before wringing it and placing the cooling cloth on Naruto's forehead. He then shouted, asking were the healer was, demanding them to hurry. The pups inside their bundle were squirming uncomfortably, pressing against the injury on his stomach.
"Kurama…?" he said, his voice slurring slightly.
The blonde-haired man took off his conical hat to reveal his spiky blonde hair, his face pinched in a pained frown. "You don't know…?"
Naruto shook his head slightly, careful not to shake off the damp cloth. The human did not seem happy with Naruto's answer if the sorrowful look on his face was anything to go by. He dragged a chair from the corner forward, bringing it near the bed Naruto was laying down on. He sighed heavily, running his hands through his bright blonde hair, suddenly looking very tired. He turned to look at Naruto again, his blue eyes tired but still filled with warmth.
"Tell me Naruto, what do you know about your mother…?"
"My mother… I-I don't know much about... him… I was brought up by my foster parents…" which wasn't untrue. Naruto could never bring himself to ask more about the demon who gave birth to him. It hurt too much to think about it.
"…I see…" just then man dressed in pale blue robes came in, the healer it would seem. He greeted the blonde-haired human, and then came close to Naruto ready to take a bundle off him. But the kitsune refused, growling fiercely, causing the human healer to flinch away from him, looking from his snarling face to the other human, not sure how he was supposed to proceed.
"S-sir?" he stuttered uncertainly.
The blonde-haired man raised his arm. "Naruto the healer just needs to have a look at you. He needs to check that you are alright…"
"I'm fine…" he said, his voice strained and gruff. "Haku-san took care of me, I don't need to be looked at." The human nodded and sent the healer away, when he was gone he turned back to regard the tired fox.
"You need to rest…" he insisted.
Naruto knew that he did, all of his remaining chakra was going to healing his wound, but he couldn't go to sleep. Not in such a foreign place filled with humans, and his pups were vulnerable. He yearned for his mate, for his home in Konoha. The odd human seemed to be able to feel his distress since he gave him a forlorn look while biting his bottom lip as if he were trying to make a hard decision. He stood up abruptly, giving the tired fox demon a kind smile.
"I'll leave the room and bring your mate in, get some sleep. Don't worry you're safe, I as the Genshu (leader) of Kumogakure promise that," he said and Naruto didn't bother correcting him about Juugo as he left. He was already drifting off to sleep.
Outside Juugo was waiting, and the human told him to go inside, watching with a sad look as the large red-haired youkai lumbered inside. He turned only to find Jiraiya waiting for him.
The older man stepped forward. "Well…?" he asked.
"He doesn't know a thing Jiraiya, he doesn't know a thing about me…" he said, his voice rough and shuddered.
Jiraiya sighed, and shook his head, "Don't worry Minato, once he's better you can talk to him."
The man named Minato nodded forlornly, glancing back at the closed door, wishing to look at the occupants inside. He had been waiting to meet Naruto for over 16 years now, ever since Kurama left. He would not let this opportunity escape him once again.
"I hope so," he replied. "I don't want to lose my son ever again."
Sasuke woke up groggily, his mind like a mush of unsettled thoughts. Once his eyes adjusted to the light he realised that his brother Itachi was sitting next to him sipping tea; he groaned, catching the older ookami's attention. Itachi looked down at him with tired eyes, he removed the blanket that surrounded him and then helped Sasuke slowly sit up. The young youkai looked around disoriented, only to realise that he was back home in his room again, and not outside in the forest.
"What happened?" he groaned.
"Your link was activated, you went out into the wilds to find Naruto but then you met a shark demon that had your mate's scent all over him. You attacked him and Tsunade-sama had to sedate you."
"What…" he groaned clutching his head, trying to remember what happened the night before.
He remembered the chase, the snow hitting his face, the branches snagging at his clothes. His heartbeat pumping in his ears like a drum, he had zoned out completely, letting his baser instincts take over. They had roared and cried out in pain, demanding his mate no matter what the cost. Then that demon, that fiend that carried his mate's pregnant scent so familiarly, it made the hackles rise in his throat.
Yet Itachi shushed him, "Calm down Otouto, he's restrained with mother and father right now being questioned."
"I want to see him…" he growled, but Itachi pushed him back down again.
"Don't be foolish little brother, you're under the influence of the drug and poison. Let mother and father handle it."
"No!" he snarled, pushing Itachi aside and staggering up into a standing position.
Sasuke felt himself swaying from side to side, but didn't listen to his brother telling him to lay back down. He swayed towards one of the spare rooms, following the fresh scent of his parents, knowing that the demon was also with them. Itachi followed close behind, waiting to catch his younger brother in case he falls. Sasuke slammed the door open, not caring to bother and wait for his parents' permission to enter; the sight of the passed out shark demon with Tsunade hovering over him only managed to enrage him further.
"I want to talk to him…" although he'd rather kill the youkai.
"Sasuke, wait!" his mother stopped him, grasping his arm. "We don't think he hurt your mate!" she tried to reason, but Sasuke didn't want to listen.
"Naruto's scent is all over him!" he tried to shake her off him, but he was too weak to do that, just walking here had almost drained him.
The cougar demon looked up at the Uchiha's. "They might have been kept prisoner together," she said, showing them the bruises around the neck and wrist. "He was also severely starved and dehydrated, who knows how long he was out there…"
"He was held prisoner, who would do such a thing?" Fugaku asked.
They all turned around to see that Kakashi had joined them, his thick fur coat wet from the snow. He had been outside continuing the search using his tracking skills, following the scent of the sickly shark demon until he found the abandoned human camp.
"Poachers?" Itachi asked.
"Yes, human poachers roam the wasteland towards the northwest, kidnapping any demons from the remote villages surrounding Konoha. They usually take young ones since they will sell easier."
The Uchiha family was disgusted by the news, and the idea that Naruto could be trapped within the clutches of those disgusting humans. "How can you be sure?" Mikoto asked.
Kakashi sighed, running his hands through his thick silver hair. "We found the cages, dozens of them, but they were all empty."
"Empty?! Where did Naruto go and what about those humans?!"
"We found no trace of them, no youkais or humans were in the area, but…"
"There was evidence of a struggle, and not far off my group found an area cleared and filled with ashes, the ground scorched. Whatever was left was burned…" there was this look of utter dejection on his face. At times Sasuke forgot that Naruto was like a son to the Inu youkai, the possibility of losing Naruto was probably hitting him just as hard.
"Could that mean…" no he couldn't finish the question, he didn't even want to consider it.
"…" Kakashi didn't say anything, he turned away looking instead at his mate Iruka who had been hiding behind the bigger youkai.
Fugaku gave a tired sigh, and looked back at the sleeping shark youkai, "We should not jump to conclusions, let us wait until he wakes up. He will tell us what happened."
This answer did not seem to appease Iruka. He walked out of the room, and Kakashi seeing the desolation on his mate's face, followed right after him. He found the submissive youkai outside, staring blankly into the sky. Kakashi came to a stop behind him, contemplating if he should envelop him in a comforting hug, or give him the space to get emotions settled. The decision was made for him when Iruka gave a heart-wrenching sob and slammed himself into Kakashi's chest. His nails digging into Kakashi's shoulders, the dog demon just held his mate tight.
"He was taken by them, he was taken by those savages!" he shouted, muffled by Kakashi's thick coat.
"We don't know that…" he tried to reassure him but it sounded false even to him.
"You know what they do, what they will do, and what they did to me… they will do to Naruto!"
Kakashi shushed him, he didn't need to be reminded of what happened that cold rainy night, over 80 years ago…
'The cold rain felt like icy shards against his cheeks; he was running through the forest, rushing towards the sight of an explosion. It was near the border and Kakashi and his team were sent to investigate. Kakashi didn't know what to expect, he nodded towards his teammates who separated from him and flanked off in either direction to surround the sight of the explosion.
The dog demon came to a stop just before the threshold, he looked towards his men. Kakashi then raised his hands, they all took out their weapons and with a flexing of his fingers they all rushed the sight.
Kakashi expected many things to happen, he expected to see many things, but he didn't expect this of all things. To see a submissive demon standing in the middle of the crater, his surroundings scorched and burnt, a multitude of bodies torn and shredded, littering the ground around him. They were human bodies, the stench from them was obvious. His hands were covered in blood, not just that of the humans but also his own. His was clutching his middle. Kakashi then realised that his clothes were torn and his lower stomach was cut open, although that wound looked less than clean. Not a knife wound.
The demon turned to look at him, his long brown hair loose and dirty, stained with more blood and dirt. His eyes glowing red with feral anger, teeth sharp, mouth pulled up in a snarl, ready to fight, ready to kill.
He recognised this demon, a healer, who had gone missing when one of their relief camps had been raided. He had been missing for over three months. The demon snarled at Kakashi, readying himself to attack him, not at all caring for his severe wounds. Kakashi realising that he must look threatening to the submissive slowly put down his weapon on the wet muddy ground.
"Shhh… you're okay…" he said calmly, he hands raised up defensively. "I'm not going to hurt you."
The demon was breathing hard, his feet swaying side to side, rain water dripping down the side of his face. Washing away some of the dirt and blood so that he was more clear to see. He looked tired, there was a fresh bruise of the side of his face, his bottom lip was cut. Kakashi could see the raw red handprints around his neck like he had been choked. There were more around his arms, some older, and ugly purple blooms on his sickly pale skin.
It didn't take much to know what had happened to him, this demon had obviously been beaten, tortured from the looks of it. There was something else, a scent in the air that troubled him. He looked at the youkai's blood-covered hands and his stomach wound, it didn't take much to piece the scene together.
Kakashi's eyes widened in shock. He had torn his own stomach open.
The demon snapped, taking a step back away from Kakashi. "No, no, it's okay, I'm not going to hurt you, you're safe now, you're safe."
The youkai growled in warning at Kakashi, but it came out more like a pathetic whine. The angry red of his eyes fading to reveal a chocolate brown matching his hair, and he collapsed to the ground. Kakashi was instantly by his side, clamping his arm across his stomach wound to stem the bleeding.
"Someone get me some bandages!" he shouted at his teammates.'
Iruka had been unconscious for nearly a week, he had torn into his stomach, digging past his intestines to his womb and destroyed the organ. It was almost as if he had been trying to remove it, which he probably had been. The damage was irreversible. Reports of missing submissive youkais had been wide spread, kidnapped by poachers, raped and sold to other humans. Iruka had been missing for over three months, the signs of what they did to him were obvious. Kakashi never asked him what happened, he didn't have to.
He remained by the younger submissive's side, waiting until he was awake, and remaining with him throughout his rehabilitation. Kakashi did so, even when Iruka remained silent for months, his brown eyes glazed with anger and sorrow. There was an emptiness in them that Kakashi spent years filling with laughter and gifts, until Iruka finally repaid him with a smile. It took many more years until Iruka would stop flinching at his touch. To know that he was being put in that situation again hurt Kakashi, knowing that the same could be happening to Naruto was killing him.
"We will find him, I promise you that I will…" Kakashi said sincerely, pulling his mate into a fierce hug.
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