A/N; Well... this chapter was a long time coming. It probably won't make many of you happy, but I figure this is better late then never. I want to thank anyone and everyone who has ever read this story, added it to their favorite list or reviewed; you wouldn't believe how much that has meant to me. So thank you. On a side note in case no one knew, ETA means 'Estimated Time of Arrival'. Remember that.

Warnings; A little bit of gore mention and some fighting.


Chapter 5: All or Nothing

Sai couldn't feel much of anything except cold... and wet. His eyelids were almost too heavy to lift and it took a lot of effort and time before he finally managed to get them open. But after they were open he could see just fine. And suddenly it was a lot easier to look around the world once more, as if by merely opening his eyes he gained back all of the energy that he had been fighting for just to open said eyes. Now that sight had returned to him, several other feelings returned at once besides the wet and cold.

He was laying on sand. He could see and feel the grainy earth that was underneath him. The sharper, rock like particles dug in to the soft flesh of his inner arms as he lay prone, arms flung out and wide open. Sai didn't make a noise as he slowly drew his arms defensively back in to his sides. It took even longer to roll on to his stomach and get his knees under himself to really survey and comprehend where he was—and what had happened. What had happened, exactly?

The trail. The harbor. The building—the people with large ears. Naruto. ROOT. Naruto.

Battle.

Sai's eyes sought out the harbor, and found that he was at the mouth of the ocean and while he could still spy the building, it was very far. And it looked like the hand of god had come down and punched it. It was a half-collapsed, blackened building. The trees and plant life around it were decimated. Scorched and torn up from the battle of ninja that had happened there.

To his immediate left was a chunk of pillar.

Sai didn't really want to contemplate how that got here with him. Or how he himself got here with it. But he did it anyway. Either one of the ROOT ninja had performed some kind of suiton jutsu and used the water in the harbor to wash them out because they had lost the element of surprise... or maybe Naruto had used one of his crazy, extremely dangerous jutsu... or maybe the strange creatures they had encountered had done something to send them all packing...

… send them all packing...

Sai straightened his back as much as he could (because it ached and hurt and he was sure he had been bleeding from somewhere before, but time had let it clot) and looked around. Really looked around himself.

It was only him here. No foot prints. No snores. No chakra.

Just the gentle sound of water on the shore.

"... Naruto?" He rasped.

"... hey, Dickless. Where are you?" He lurched on to his unstable legs as a foreign feeling appeared in the pit of his belly. He couldn't rightly recognize it, it burned hot and cold and made his body feel light and heavy at the same time. Sai was sure that he had never felt this (and it took him a while to recall what, exactly, he was feeling) emotion before. Or maybe he had, and it had never been so intense that breathing seemed to hurt as his eyes flitted around him. The foliage wasn't thick here. Not thick enough for someone like Naruto to hide. He would see orange... or blond... or hear him...

Sai opened his mouth to yell, but ended up choking on his restricted throat. Why did it feel like his throat was clogged by some mysterious lump? There was nothing there. But breathing was starting to become pinched and painful. Sai worked his throat, swallowing convulsively before clearing his throat harshly. Finally, finally he could get the words out. "Naruto! Where are you!" He raised his voice as much as he could. It sounded like a scream to his ears and made his chest light and his head spin.

Although he soon learned that screaming for Naruto didn't make the other appear.

All that he was left with was the tide as it slowly started its natural, temporary retreat. There was the sand under his feet, in his toes and hair and the grittiness of it made him feel more exhausted by the minute.


Sai ended up doing only what a good ninja would do—although he did it poorly because his body was riddled with injury, chakra exhaustion and some kind of head wound that made it impossible to solidly coordinate himself—and he searched the area around him, searched the edge of the ocean (he found several bodies of ROOT, and he even recognized some. He salvaged their weapons, their rations, their clothes, their masks...and he left their corpses to the water to bloat and become putrid) and he eventually made his way to the harbor.

The dining hall that he and Naruto had stumbled upon had three corpses of the big eared creatures. Well, the ears weren't significantly large when one really considered them. But the points made them unique and different and they were slightly larger then normal. One of these creatures looked like he had met his end with a couple of exploding tags. The head was gone and the chest cavity had been blown open. Bits of gray had been scattered around his immediate vicinity and his insides had fanned out as if a great wind had blown them all out in one direction. Of the three corpses, this one was the worst.

Sai didn't much care, he looted them all. He gathered all of the items he had found—and he was specifically not thinking at the moment because he didn't much care for it—and he prepared for his continuation. Weapons, tags, rations, clothes... His own were in tatters, and he took a moment for basic first aid and wound wrapping before he fashioned himself some black trousers, a long sleeved black shirt from the ROOT that was closest to him in size.

He found a armored vest that didn't quiet fit for it was a bit on the large side, but he put it on anyway. He filled in the gaps with the extra shirt he had looted off of another body. There was still room to move, but now it didn't look so obviously large. That was followed by the ANBU cloak that ROOT had taken to copying to complete his disguise. He wouldn't be able to outrun them. But Sai had been ROOT... no, that wording was wrong, he was ROOT. Sai could blend in with them.

He knew their hand signs, their codes, how they functioned; it would be the easiest thing in the world. After all, ROOT wasn't an individual, and no one would think much of another pale individual slipping in amongst the bulk of their forces. Or at least they wouldn't think to care before it was too late.

Sai refused to believe that Naruto was anywhere but in the hands of these... soulless pawns.

Although now that he was clothed and mostly patched up, he contemplated the sudden holes in his memory. He remembered pulling Naruto back once ROOT had been noticed. And the arrows that these primitive big eared creatures had, those had been fired. A ROOT had lunged at him while two of the ROOT had gone in to the dining room. The shouting in that strange language was something he remembered halfheartedly. He had been more focused on the immediate threat on his life.

He remembered Naruto at his side, the weight of his warmth and the strong scent of blood as he pulled them back through the arches as quickly as possible... and then...

And then nothing.

Sai didn't make a noise as he raised both of his hands and searched his skull for his.. injury.

He found several instead of just one. He had been hit several times on the head. And had potentially knocked it somewhere hard as well. Possibly even in to that chunk of pillar he had found to be near his landing/waking area. Several parts of his face and skull were extremely tender, which suggested bruising. But there was nothing to indicate damage to the bone. He didn't have that dizzy sickness that would indicate a skull fracture.

The smell of food suddenly hit him like a punch to the gut. Sai groaned, leaning forward slightly as his hand went to gently touch his stomach. Oh, when was the last time he had eaten properly? How long had he been unconscious? And Sai remembered that he was in a dining hall. The food might have been old now, but it still smelled like food.

Sai stood still for a moment as he took in blood stains, gore, over turned tables... and still edible food.

He sat and he ate.

It was like ashes in his mouth. His hands shook, but he didn't slow down his careful eating. He pulled food right up off the floor, dusted it off or picked off any suspicious parts and shoved it in to his mouth. This fare was probably far better then the meager rations he had picked up, but at the moment he couldn't tell a difference. He felt cold and the spaces around him felt strangely empty.

Strangely, because he was alone and they were obviously empty. But some part of himself expected that there should be something there. But he couldn't put his finger exactly on what it was.

The only liquid here was alcohol. Sai sipped only a little of it, not risking the fire needed to boil water down.

Nothing tasted good. But he ate until he logically knew he was full.

Why did his eyes burn?


Sai eventually decided that it was guilt. He felt guilty to have sat around until night fall—but logically he knew that he would be better prepared to blend in with the night. That, and he focused the time on recovery and energy requisition. On testing how much he was hurt, he mentally changed his fighting tactics for his injuries. His left side was weak at the moment.

That, and the more he sat around, the more he was sure that ROOT had captured Naruto. Because he was sure that Naruto was more of a target then he himself was.

He was just a useless ROOT nobody that wasn't special at all.

… even if he had felt special with them. His team. (And wasn't that a marvel by itself?)

And if his body had been blown sky high, he had probably been left for dead—even if he hadn't been found. Although It was a bit of a mystery, the fact that he hadn't been found. He wasn't exactly hidden, and Sai knew that he wasn't exactly hard to miss. Although the answer was simple enough to come up with once he took a moment to think of it.

Sai wasn't much of a target here. They knew he had the information, but it was Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura that would be the targets. Besides, he couldn't exactly speak a word of information to anyone. Not with the seal that was on him. And Sai would be the first to admit that these three were insanely strong. And while he might be able to hold out against them...

… he knew that if they got serious enough, even in a one on one battle... he highly doubted his chances of survival.

ROOT wouldn't bother much with him. He couldn't tell anyone anything. He wasn't much of a threat compared to the original Team 7. Sai doubted he would ever have the strength of them. But for ninja, strength wasn't exactly the point. They were supposed to be cunning. Smart. Secret.

Naruto did have those skills, but he chose when to use them. Sakura was pretty ideal for a ninja until her temper got in the way. And Sasuke... well, Sasuke was crazy. Sai was sure that on a clinical scale, Sasuke was crazy. But that didn't matter much in the long run. Not any of it. When one was truly strong, then they could act as they saw fit. Because no one else would be able to do a single thing about it.

And ROOT was strong. They thought so little of Sai.

They might even think that he would run, if given the chance.

He had his chance now...

… but he wasn't running.

Well, he was running. He had recovered enough. He wasn't moving all too fast. But he was running. Just not in the direction they would expect. He had waited long enough. So Sai stood and left the dining hall that he had stationed himself in during his short recovery. Naruto had been left waiting long enough.


Naruto had given them one hell of a fight. Sai knew this to be true. All he had to do was follow the carnage. Although there were long stretches of land where there was no damage at all, there were parts where the landscape had been heavily changed. And Sai supposed that they managed to either contain or knock the blond unconscious during the stretches of unmarked territory. It seemed that ROOT were rather intent on keeping the blond alive, despite his obvious missing-nin status.

There were multiple reasons for keeping Naruto alive. He was the container, after all. He was a weapon that could be... if Sai wanted to be morbid (he forced his mind past the initial flinch as he thought of how Naruto could be used)... Naruto could be a very dangerous individual. Naruto was a strong shinobi. A very resilient boy with the potential to be an army by himself.

If Naruto could be broken, he could be remade in to something terrifying.

But Sai couldn't get passed the idea of a broken Naruto. He couldn't even imagine it. Naruto was a force of nature. His will could be related to flames or the ocean. Both of them so vast that the thought of them faltering didn't seem physically possible. Sai could picture Naruto even now—his hair shiny and bright and his eyes large and so filled with emotion. Those eyes weren't meant to be empty. Some might debate about the existence of a soul—but all they would have to do would be to take one look at Naruto to be able to see it.

Sai would never be the one to say that Naruto was an amazing ninja. Or even a good one. Naruto seemed to be the antithesis of all that ninja stood for.

But just because he wasn't a good ninja didn't mean he wasn't strong. Naruto was in a league of his own. And right up there along with him was Sasuke and Sakura. Each of them had followed solidly in their masters' wake. Ninja like them didn't need to be particularly stealthy or sneaky, really.

Not when one could use a single finger to shatter a man's skull.

Not when one could move so fast no one seemed able to touch them.

Not when Naruto grinned so widely and with so much confidence his body language screamed 'believe me!' and Sai could do nothing but believe. Sai blinked hazily and reached a hand up to adjust his mask. He wasn't bothering with stealth at this point. He was following the trail, after all. And this part of it was cold. Even though he had hit another stretch of wreckage...

Sai tripped, but caught his balance in a moment.

He was exhausted. And he was starting to realize that he wasn't going to be of much use in any real fight. He wasn't like Naruto. Or like Sakura or like Sasuke. He didn't have the strength. Not like they did. He wasn't a power house. He didn't have a summons. He didn't have the ability to curl a first and crush a man's ribcage. He wasn't like them at all.

… but he was a damn good ninja. And what the others lacked, he would make sure to have in spades.


It was the noise that first alerted him that he was close. He had walked through what had remained of the night and through the morning. His legs burned and his feet felt like lead. His chest, well... breathing wasn't the most pleasant thing at the moment. His insides felt raw, like someone had taken sandpaper and vigorously scrubbed him from the inside to the outside. He was stretched far too thin... but he had walked and jogged so far that he could practically taste the ocean in the back of his throat. And that wasn't good. Not for him and not for Naruto. It would lead to bad things – if they were able to successfully transport Naruto off of this land mass.

They had been able to get decently far in land. And from what Sai could remember, there were only certain currents that would bring them far enough out to sea to be able to hit just the right current to bring them home. His mental map of the land wasn't top shape at the moment, but the feeling in his gut told him that they were probably very close to one of those spots.

The trees had thinned by this point in time, but they provided good enough cover for Sai as he moved from shadow to shadow amongst the branches of the trees. After all, Konoha ninja were from the village 'hidden in the leaves', it was practically a specialty. If ROOT hadn't been from Konoha, Sai might have considered it most advantageous. Instead, he just focused on silence and getting close enough to observe the ones that had taken Naruto. He didn't know how many ROOT ninja there was, and that was his number one priority.

It was the afternoon, and he was sure that these ninja hadn't stopped since they had captured Naruto. Or at least other then to heal any potential injury from Naruto's escape attempts. The sun, when it fell through the leaves, felt golden on his clothes—it brought a warmth back to Sai that he hadn't even known he was missing.

Spotting the group of ROOT and Naruto made him feel immensely better.

There.

Sai didn't change a thing of his pace through the trees. Up ahead he could spot the silent forms of ROOT ninja moving in the tree branches. And on the ground was another group that was transporting Naruto. They seemed to have wised up about carrying Naruto on any of their backs, and had tied the other to a branch with ninja wire. Sai analyzed the method and deemed it the smartest thing that the ROOT could have done. Travel through the tree branches with such a straight branch to carry was near impossible to do so silently, hence the team of four that traveled on the ground.

The group directly above them in the trees, Sai estimated that they were a group of three. Which meant that either this was all that remained of ROOT, or they had more out there that were scouts and were keeping an eye for any retribution.

Well, they would never see Sai coming.

After all, the man that wore the mask that he had stolen—Sai had known him well. He had drawn his mask form often enough. They were close enough in size, and Sai knew how the other carried himself. It would be no problem at all.

So, Sai took two kunai in to his hand and softly tapped out the code for returning ROOT to a party that would have thought them dead. Immediately the group of three in the trees stopped and turned to him. Sai stilled on his branch, sending a sudden burst of chakra to his feet to still himself from continuing as the three turned and surrounded him. Soon, all he could see was the leader as the other took position on a branch three ahead of where Sai was. The other two drifted behind Sai and out of sight.

The black hidden hands of the obvious mission leader raised up and he started their typical signs—

'Identification, injury, status.'

Young ninja often had a fanciful view on what ANBU sign meant—it was nothing as coherent as they thought. The motion had a definition, but complicated sentences were completely out of the question.

Sai slipped the kunai back in to position and answered.

'Rabbit Four, head, leg, back, functional.'

The mission leader—Boar was the mask that he wore and now that he was closer Sai could recognize the way he moved and identify his non-ROOT persona. He had made it a game for a while, to identify ROOT outside of their organization. Sai was especially good with body language, although often times he wouldn't act like it. Drawing was his hobby and his weapon, and the simplest changes in body language made all the difference in both aspects. This man's cover was a 'shop keeper' from one of the ninja stores—his part time job due to it being a family business and he was a full time academy teacher. Supposedly rather ordinary with the plainest brown hair imaginable.

His body language read suspicion, but Sai could understand that. He read it in the hunch of the other's shoulders and the loose way he held his arms. This man was ready to spring in to action if needed.

Boar signed out, 'hour'.

So Sai signed back the amount of hours since he had awakened, which was around 'twenty'. The sheer amount of time made the mission leader obviously uneasy. But when lying it was always best to mix the truth and lies together and to lie as little as possible.

And then Boar made a sign then to continue questioning Sai, but it was a sign that Sai did not recognize.

Sai felt cold and hot at the same time as he stared at those hands. His knees felt locked and for one moment he just felt like screaming (in denial or terror, he could hardly tell) as his stomach dropped out. He was going to be found out! Sai had never known that he was prone to such panic as a sudden sweat broke out over the back of his neck. He raised his hands. He needed to defend himself. There were three ROOT but he hadn't had time to identify the other two since they were away from his sight—his mind was going a mile a minute before one blaring thought stopped it all.

He didn't have time to think. He was already moving his hands. So he followed through with the motion of raising his hands and he popped open both of his middle fingers at the mission leader and waved them in irritation before dropping the gesture even as the mission leader dropped his hands and nodded.

Of course—Sai had almost forgotten the 'fake sign' trick.

It was a good thing that the man he was impersonating often got pissed at the trick. The only way to explain his movements had been to complete that rude gesture.

He felt exhaustion creep up his body even as he read the new signs Boar made. The other was assigning him a location. And after an obvious look over he assigned Sai to the floor formation, since they weren't using chakra to keep to the trees.

The whole encounter took less then five minutes.

The three ROOT took off, and Sai dropped down to the ground and ran after the four floor group.

Infiltration, success.

Now, he just needed a plan.


Sai was running out of time. He hadn't been exactly sure of his coordinates but the header of the ground party had given them an ETA. Well, he had via radio, but Sai had been close enough to the man just to hear the muffled words that the other spoke. Which was good, he didn't have the radio that everyone else seemed to have. All the same, everyone sped up—and they had thirty minutes till they hit the shore. And there was most likely a waiting party there.

He didn't have a whole bunch of time.

And Naruto wasn't waking up. His body was slack and hanging like a hog on a stick. It didn't look like this ROOT party had any seal masters, but all the same Naruto's head was bloody. Enough hits to the head would do damage. At least enough to knock the other out.

But Sai needed to act. But his information was so small and he was too weak to take on such a large number. But if they hit the shore or the ocean then Naruto would no longer have his chance for freedom. And Sai didn't really know how many ROOT were running around because even he didn't really know the total number of ROOT operatives.

He didn't know. And all of his training told him to sit tight and weight.

But his chest burned and something inside of him said that it was 'now or never'.

Sai logically went with the 'now or never' feeling.

What else could he do?


All the same, he did as much quick planning as he could. He had the relative element of surprise but he didn't have all too much strength to fight against a large force. If Naruto was conscious, the plan might involve setting him free. If Naruto was there, Sai would have had a powerhouse to work around. Naruto could do the wide range damage attacks and Sai could slip in and end their enemies quickly and silently.

But he didn't have Naruto. But he was stealthy. But he didn't have the time to plan traps.

But he had his ink and pictures—but those needed a bit of time and it was obvious what he was doing. Rabbit # 4 did not carry art supplies. The other didn't do anything of the sort. It would be known he was an imposter.

He had supplies.

He ached—but he had to believe in himself. For Naruto's sake. After all, Sai didn't have any dreams to accomplish. But Naruto always seemed to be full of them. And wasn't that worth protecting?

When had his life started to revolve around Naruto and Team 7?

And since when did such a thing make him so happy?


He was able to subtly make some shadow clones somehow. It had been his first daring move and he sent them out with their instructions. No one reacted to it, he was left to his own business. He sent them on ahead with his black wire, courtesy of the ROOT he had robbed. It was just simple ninja wire of the thinnest, strongest quality and painted black.

Very good for assassination.

He just had to wait a little bit longer. The trees were thinning. Soon enough the team in the trees would drop down—just a little bit of time.


ETA was ten minutes from the sea. He could taste ocean water in his mouth and he could feel the itch of salt on his skin once more.

It was time.


The clones that he had sent ahead dropped their nooses from the thin trees and pulled tight—there were six nooses with three per clone, but they were only able to snag 3 ROOT operatives. Thankfully, the ROOT operative that held the end of Naruto's 'stick' was caught in a noose.

The moment that the noose pulled tight around their necks, the exploding tags on them exploded. Sai ignored the splash of gore on the right half of his body (he ignored the hot-sick scent and the feeling of wet that exploded across his senses) as he jumped in and captured the end of Naruto's pole even as he acknowledged that his shadow clones had been forcibly dispersed before they could make themselves go. Sai was used to assassinations and all of the innards that the human body contained.

The ROOT around him drew to a halt and Sai was mightily suspicious of the fact that they hadn't 'discovered' him. Did they know who Sai was, and were just bidding their time?

That was three ROOT down.

Four left.


The infiltration didn't last long. Sai really wasn't too sure at this point if they knew who he was and were just pretending until that moment or he had finally done something to give himself away. All he knew was that there was a kunai coming for his kidneys and they were turning toward him with death in their hands.

Sai dropped down low, letting the kunai rip through his cloak and bounce off of the back of the plate armor he had over his front and back. He ripped Naruto's ankles free and dropped the pole.

He flew a hand to his paintbrush, even as the ink canister he kept strapped to his arm broke—he had ink on his hand and a brush between his fingers—he was ready. As ready as he would ever be.

The blaze of battle just about ripped him out of his senses. There were four ROOT and he was woefully under classed. It was all so fast, he feared blinking in case he missed some vital clue of an incoming weapon. He had never moved so fast while he was so exhausted in his life. He fought just to stay alive, but he was starting to see that it didn't seem like he was going to last long. He couldn't possibly last long against this set of ROOT operatives.

A seconds inattention and his left leg was just about skewered.

Naruto was tumbled on the ground. He was still unconscious.

There was a ROOT operative above his head and coming down. There was one on either side of Sai and he was just barely holding the off and the last one... the last one was off to the side and preparing something just outside of his field of vision. Sai's hackles were raised and he knew that not being able to see all of the enemy was extremely, extremely bad.

.. damnit.

Damnit.

He flicked his ink covered hand at the ninja on his right, the splatter hitting the white mask with pinpoint accuracy. Sai grinned when he noticed that the vague shape had made the journey—this ink was mixed with chakra and blood—he didn't have much chakra to spare, but he needed it here—the ink butterfly (it's artist points were total shit, but Sai could live with that... if he lived) as it peeled off of the mask and flew up in to the descending ROOT ninja above his head. Sai heard the impact rather then saw it as he ducked under a blow and rolled out of the way.

The butterfly smacked right in to the ROOT ninja's mask and shattered it. White porcelain rained down from above but Sai was relatively protected from that. He used one hand and unclipped his cloak, using the momentum of a spin to toss it in to the face of his attacker on the left—he dodged the tanto stab from his right—

His left leg, his skewered leg, faltered underneath him and he hit the ground hard in one jarring blast.

Sai couldn't stop the scream—there was metal in his body where it didn't belong. His hand flew to his side to where the tanto had stabbed through the leather that kept his chest plate to his body. The ROOT was above him now and his hands were on the handle—he twisted the blade.

(Where was his mask? He could feel cool air against his face and with a mask on he knew that he shouldn't feel that at all. where was his mask?)

Sai screamed again, but that didn't stop his free hand on the ground.

It was the shoddiest tiger he hand ever made, but it came roaring up from the ground—it's had was disproportionately too big for it's body, but it didn't need to go far as it clamped it's ink teeth over the ROOT ninja's head and ripped in to the other like a rag doll. Sai didn't much care what happened, he was focusing on breathing through the pain and trying to find some willpower to move.

It was like fire. It was icy hot stabs in to his body and he couldn't stop it. He whimpered. His legs were numb and he hurt... he hurt!

"Na..." His voice broke as he swung his eyes around.

… where were the other three?

A sound—like the sound of the river. Of dragons and ice and lions—

JUTSU! Sai's mind screamed. But he couldn't move.

A flash of orange—

And things went dark.


Naruto had had only seconds—the sky was blue and the ground was red and there was a roaring in his ears—and he could see Sai's pasty pale face amidst a sea of black as the water came rushing forwards. Naruto didn't think—there aren't enough time—as he ripped his hands free of the wire and wood—he had no time for pain—and he rushed forward—

He reached Sai moments before the water dragon did.

And they tumbled like fish in a waterfall as the jutsu carried them off. Naruto lost what little oxygen he had after they tumbled into a tree for the first time. Sai was so still but Naruto couldn't see and they were moving so, so fast—

The ground disappeared.

The water turned icy hot and it was darker—Naruto kicked his legs uselessly as his legs burned. He needed to breath and Sai... Sai! He needed to get to the surface, but he was having trouble remembering which way was up and which way was down.

Naruto could hardly open his eyes, the salt stung.

But he picked the lighter direction to go into and he kicked that way.

He broke the surface—

And water blasted in to his face and sunk him under like a brick to the head. His grip on Sai disappeared. Slipped through his fingers like sand. But his quick scramble found the other again—he hadn't gotten any air. He needed the air. In his panic, he strengthened his legs with chakra and kicked. He kicked rapidly with all of his might. All that he could. He shot out of the water with more dead weight then he thought he could handle as he made it to the top. He had chakra on his feet and the water of the ocean under him.

He gasped, a hand jumping to his eyes—he brushed the sea water as much as he could before he shook his head like a dog to clear the excess away and he squinted out with his stinging eyes..

They were coming.

When did they get so far away from land?

The black shapes... Naruto could hardly count (well, he could but he was in a panic and he wouldn't waste time) with how things were, but he estimated that there were twenty dark shapes coming toward him. Maybe more. But the first wave had to be around 20. He looked down at Sai and found that he clutched the other's arm. Sai was so still. The sword that had been in him before was gone.. and the air smelled red—"Sai..."

Naruto felt his voice break.

He shook Sai a little from where he was holding the other. Sai was like dough. He wobbled from side to side with the movement. It took Naruto a moment before he hauled the other up. Sai's chest wasn't moving. How long had they been under the water?

"Sai!" Not Sai... no, no one was supposed to die! No one was allowed to die!

.. Sai had been right. Not just about the medical kit, but about being able to have the ability to save your team mates. Naruto had never really had to learn much medical things. He knew how to put a bandage on stab wounds. He knew when to pinch and when to put pressure when he was needed. Naruto even knew how to stop people from choking on food.

But Sai wasn't suffering any of those things.

But it was the only thing that Naruto know how to do. Naruto ignored their enemies as he hauled Sai up in to his arms. He pulled the other's back to his chest and he jerked his arms in to the other's diaphragm... or he tried. There was armor there where it hadn't been before. And it stopped Naruto's attempts to being the other air. "Shit... shit!" Naruto scrambled, fingers sliding uselessly against the armor. How the hell did he take this off?

"Stupidest idea ever Sai! Stupid idea!" Naruto shrieked at the other, even as Sai's water logged weight tipped the other half over. Naruto couldn't find out how to get the armor off. And he knew oxygen was the most important thing ever.

And he could die without it.

Naruto yelled in frustration, raised his free hand and punched the other in the back. The armor cracked.

Naruto grinned—that was how he could get the armor off! He raised his hand up again and hit... and hit... The cracks appeared bigger and bigger to the point where chunks were falling out. Naruto's hand hurt, he knew it did, but he couldn't focus on it right now.

Of course, when Sai suddenly started to sputter and throw up, Naruto froze with his fist in the air. He went still as Sai weakly shifted his arms, sputtering. Like a turtle that was on it's back.

"Sai... Sai! You're okay!" Naruto yelled as he held still. He let the other continue coughing up water, because that meant he was getting it out of his lungs right? Naruto laughed, "good! Because we got enemy incoming and I need you." He informed the other as he looked up and—

Whoa, the enemy was really... really close.

Sai groaned and weakly raised an arm to grasp on to Naruto's shoulder.

"N.. Naruto.." Sai's voice was so weak, Naruto shifted his hold to help the other stand up right. But Sai didn't move to stand on his own and he merely sagged in to Naruto's side. Naruto felt a cold fist to the gut, it left him breathless as he took in Sai's bloody mouth and too-pale-to-be-normal-even-for-Sai face. Sai shook. Sai's mouth moved silently, but Naruto could read his name on those lips and he noticed that Sai's eyes were too unfocused...

Sai needed a medic.

Naruto felt his heart clench before a red haze tinged the world around himself. Sai was hurt.. and it was these ninja's fault. They looked like ANBU, but he knew they were ROOT. And they would kill Sai. They had tried.

Naruto wouldn't let them... but he needed to safe Sai.

"KAGE BUSHIN NO JUTSU!"

Naruto hadn't summoned so many clones at once in such a long, long time. But he had an ocean to cover and he had demonic chakra to burn.


The boss had sent them out on a mission. They didn't have names, but the clone assigned each of his compatriots numbers. He was, of course, Clone Number 1. He had enough people to assign six names. Number 1 had taken point at the very front as he led their party south. He figured that if they stick to the cost that they would run in to someone... someone who would be able to help the boss's friend.

They had only taken the time to tightly wrap Sai's leg and bandage Sai's side—they had to use Sai's medical kid and they had to break off his armor—but they had done the best they could. At the moment he was draped over Number Five's back.

Sai didn't look so good.

And he was worried over the boss, too.

There had been a lot of enemies when they had left. But Boss wouldn't just leave the clones to fight. And Number One knew why... He had to end this, and make sure that no one could come after them again. But the enemy was so strong, and while Naruto was certainly strong Number One knew that real strength came from cooperation and working as a team. And while Naruto and his clones could work perfectly together because they were the same person, clones still couldn't replace a real team.

A team that wouldn't disappear after they had been hit.

But their team was scattered and in Sai's case, injured.

Number One wished his boss luck.

Boss just needed to make it out of there alive. And Numbers One through infinity would take care of everything else.