/Voice of Destiny/Inner Sakura
"Flashback dialogue/Japanese/Emphasis of words"
Key Through the Heart: Final Mix
A fanfiction by Andrew J. Talon
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, Kingdom Hearts, or any of the characters or properties mentioned in this story. The story's mine, the concept is mine, but everything else is not mine. And I'm certainly not writing this for profit. Please read the author's notes at the end of each chapter.
Death was an abstract concept to Naruto. Not something he really gave much thought. He was not particularly morbid, entertaining thoughts of his demise. It was too far away in the future for the pre-teen to really appreciate. He had entertained fantasies of his heroic last stand as an ancient Hokage, defeating his enemies with his last breath and dying a great hero once, but only once. Death was not something he really appreciated, could not appreciate.
Not until now, where it was all around him.
The sky had turned black, without a single star shining through. The wind howled through the forest and the earth below him creaked, as though all of creation was straining under a great weight. Looming above him, even blacker than the night above them, a great fox leered at him as nine snake-like tails waved behind it. It's claws dug into the earth below, as it's hideous mouth leered in a demonic grin. The worst part were it's eyes, burning bright orange in it's angular head, piercing through the night. Hundreds of pairs of similar eyes shined out of the darkness surrounding him, their owners small, twisted mockeries of life.
The kunai clenched tightly in his fist felt as worthless as a stick, and his heart pounded like a drum in his ears. Fear welled up, threatening to swallow him whole as his muscles shake. He couldn't think, he couldn't feel, he was drowning in his terror.
He had never seen it before, but he knew Death. There was no mistaking instinct.
"Huh?" He looked up from the counter of the ramen stand, his blue eyes meeting Ayame's warm brown ones. The ramen girl smiled at him warmly.
"What… How did I get here?" Naruto asked in disbelief. He looked over his shoulder, seeing the light of the sun shining through the flaps of the stand. He looked back at Ayame, the familiar smell of Ichiraku ramen floating over his nose. It was soothing, comforting, things he had always associated with Ayame.
"What do you remember?" She asked.
"I… I don't know… I was standing there… In front of this Fox…"
Naruto blinked, and glanced away from the misty forest back to Sakura. The rosette-haired girl was rubbing her knuckles, wrapped in blood stained gauze. A battered tree stood next to her, creaking slightly in the wind.
"Though I saw something…" He smiled at her. "I heard you were training out here, Sakura-chan. What are you doing?"
"Using my chakra to boost my strength," she said, rubbing her knuckles with a grimace. "Kakashi-sensei told me to focus on toughening up, since I got tree walking already. So, here I am, punching a tree."
"Oh… Looks like it hurts," Naruto offered. He winced at the annoyed expression on her face.
"Of course it hurts, you idiot!"
Naruto's hands drifted down to his sides, and his right brushed over his pocket; Then rough cloth, rougher than that of his clothing, made itself known to his sense of touch. Sudden inspiration struck him.
"Here! I uh, got you these!"
He held out a pair of tough, weather-beaten gloves to the pinkette. Sakura blinked and took them, running her thumbs over the worn, soft leather.
"There's this old lady who made work gloves for her sons, who help with the bridge, and she gave me an extra pair, but they were too small for me. So um, I put them in my pocket… For you!"
Sakura stared at the gloves a moment longer, before she slowly, carefully pulled them on. When both were on, she flexed her fists, and held both hands up to her face. She then offered Naruto a genuine, gracious smile.
"Thank you Naruto…"
"Oh, hey, no problem!" The blonde returned with a grin.
"Ha… I'm sorry I called you an idiot… I just thought you were coming out to bug me for another date or something," Sakura said. Naruto wisely kept his mouth shut and shook his head.
"Well… I'll see you at dinner," she said, turning back to the tree trunk. Her chakra flaring slightly, she threw another punch, and her fist snapped the slim tree in half. "HIYAH!"
Naruto managed to replace himself with a log, said log being smashed to dust by the swing of the Shadow Kyuubi's tail a split second later. The monster roared; a sound that rattled Naruto's very bones. The blonde's hiding place was immediately destroyed, sending Naruto flying. He pushed his fingers into a hand seal, a single jutsu's name issuing from his lips.
"KAGE BUNSHIN NO JUTSU!"
One ninja became many, and a flood of orange landed on the ground. As one, they charged the Shadow Kyuubi, desperation pushing them into battle with the Shadow Kyuubi. The monster fox roared again, its leer growing.
The first line of clones quickly transformed, falling to the ground as windmill shuriken. The second line took them up, and let loose with a hail of steel. The Shadow Kyuubi simply swung its tails in a wide arc, busting the henged clones into smoke. It roared in challenge.
The rest of the clones looked at their creator, who growled and took up his kunai. He pointed at the monster, and the duplicates followed suit.
"GET IT!" He ordered, and as one he and his troops rushed forward.
"Fighting it…" Naruto's gaze had come to rest on the ramen bowl in front of him, seeking answers in the warm broth. Ayame smiled and reached out, resting a hand on his shoulder.
"What?" Naruto asked. She smiled gently.
"It's beating so fast…"
"Well, yeah… But why?"
He was exhausted, heart pounding in his ears. He gasped down a deep breath as he landed, before he turned to once again run as fast as he could up the trunk of the tree.
Thirteen… Fourteen… Fifteen… Sixteen…
Naruto felt his chakra become unbalanced, and fought to maintain control.
Twenty… Twenty-two… Twenty-three-!
He lost control. Naruto slashed the tree with his kunai before falling back down, landing in a crouch. Panting, he looked over at Sasuke's tree and gritted his teeth.
He's still climbing, that's impossible! Naruto thought angrily.
Meanwhile, Sasuke marked off his progress and landed back to Earth as well. Scrutinizing Naruto's tree, he bared his teeth in a silent snarl.
He's catching up to me, little by little…
The two genin glared at eachother.
"You… Damnit, how are you getting so good so fast? What's your trick?" Sasuke demanded. Naruto growled.
"I'm not using one!"
"Then how the hell are you catching up to me?" Sasuke snarled. Naruto glared right back.
"Because I'm working hard, dumbass! We're not all geniuses, you bastard!"
They resumed glaring at each other, before resuming the climb. Well into the night, they climbed, until finally, they both reached the tops of their trees. Naruto stared over at Sasuke, who stared back… Before bursting into laughter.
Sasuke just smirked back.
"Looks… Like a tie, huh bastard?"
"Hn…" Sasuke replied.
Getting down left them both exhausted, without the strength to get themselves back to the inn solo. So, in unspoken agreement, the two supported each other as they made their way back to the inn. There were no words, there was no need. All Naruto had needed was that tiny bit of respect in the Uchiha heir's normally cold, dismissive eyes, and the blonde understood.
A wave of one of the Shadow Kyuubi's tails turned a line of clones into smoke. Another mob took their place, fighting through the monster's tails and claws to get at it directly. The original Naruto used the dwindling cover of the crowd to rush through, and with a battle cry he slammed a kunai into the hide of the monster.
He was slammed away, but he managed to roll, eliminating a lot of the kinetic energy of the blow.
"Boom," he murmured, and the explosive tag attached to the weapon went off in a loud, bright blast. The flames consumed the Shadow Kyuubi, and with a triumphant grin Naruto got back to his feet.
"Yeah, how do you like that? I got you, you son of a-!"
The Shadow Kyuubi's roar parted the smoke, revealing a completely undamaged monster. It leaped across the distance between them in an instant, and Naruto could do nothing other than stare dumbly at the giant paw heading right for him.
"It's very strong, your heart," Ayame spoke softly. "And it's filled with so many things. Fear, anger, happiness, hate, sorrow, hope… It's saying something to you, Naruto."
"It-It is?" He asked. Ayame nodded.
"Yes… But you can't hear it. It's too noisy."
"All your fear is making it hard for you to listen," she said. "Naruto… You need to focus. You need to listen."
"Unless you do, you'll die. And so will everyone else."
"You'll catch a cold if you sleep here. Wake up."
Naruto saw bright blue sky above him. Confused, he quickly sat up.
Huh? I guess I… I passed out training…
"Who the heck are you? Oh!" He saw the face of the speaker, and flushed. It appeared to be a cute girl in a pink dress of some sort. She was kneeling next to him, wearing a bright smile. The strangest sense of familiarity bloomed within his mind. As though he knew this girl already.
"Hello," she said politely. "I'm Haku."
"Oh, um, I'm Naruto," he replied, a bit nervously. "Er… Hello." His eyes glanced at the basket near her, and saw the various plants collected within in.
"What are you doing?"
"Gathering herbs for medicine," she said.
"So, starting work early, huh?" Naruto asked.
"I like it early. It's calm, and I didn't think I'd find anyone sleeping out here in the woods," Haku said. The blond smiled.
"I was training… All night… Guess I got carried away," he laughed, rubbing the back of his head. The girl's eyes focused intently on Naruto, making him blush.
"Hmm? So are you a ninja? I noticed that headband of yours. Or are you just trying to make a fashion statement?" Haku asked, slightly teasingly.
"You noticed that? Cool! Well… Only real ninja get to wear the-Hey, where'd it go?" Naruto felt his forehead and his eyes widened. Wordlessly, Haku handed him his handband. The blond chuckled again, as Haku joined him.
"Ah ha, heh… Thanks…"
"So, why are you out here training, Naruto?" Haku inquired. Naruto grinned as he tied his headband back on.
"To get stronger!"
"Oh? You aren't strong enough?"
"No! I've gotta keep training, I've gotta get stronger… Strong enough to realize my dream!" Naruto enthused.
"And what is that?"
"Become Hokage, of course," Naruto grinned.
"I see… And what will you do with that power?"
"Well… You know… Be Hokage. Be respected!" Naruto said. Haku nodded thoughtfully, before speaking again.
"I have found that… If you focus, not so much on your power, but why you use it, and for whom… It's much easier. If you use your power for the protection of those you love, who are precious to you, then controlling it becomes easier. And, more than that, you become stronger for it."
"I… become stronger?"
"Power by itself is only power," Haku spoke, "but power with a purpose, combines with that purpose. For people who are precious to you, you will fight harder and longer to keep them safe, because they in turn give you strength. Understand?"
Naruto nodded, and smiled happily.
"Wow! Thanks Haku! You're really smart!"
Haku nodded and smiled. She rose and turned to go. When she was just reaching the edge of the clearing they were in, she looked over her shoulder and smiled at him.
"Oh, and by the way… I'm really a boy."
Naruto's jaw dropped.
"No… No way…" He murmured in disbelief, as Haku giggled.
Naruto immediately relaxed, and chuckled.
"That wasn't very nice, nee-chan."
"It was funny though, wasn't it?" Teased Haku. Naruto smirked.
"Yep… One prankster to another, I can definitely appreciate it… So, can I walk you home, nee-chan?"
Haku smiled and shook her head.
"No… My heart knows the way."
"Huh? Your heart…?" Haku turned away, her smile becoming sad as she departed.
"The heart always knows the way home. It's walking the path that's the hard part…"
The Shadow Kyuubi slapped the original Naruto away, sending him flying into a tree. He screamed in pain as he bounced off, landing in a heap at it's roots. The ground shook more violently, and in the sky strange lights and energies crackled. He managed to look to his right, and his eyes widened.
There was absolutely nothing past the tree. Just more darkness. Naruto slowly rose to his feet and bit back the pain. A clawed hand grabbing him broke his fragile defense, and he screamed in pain as the Shadow Kyuubi leered down at him. It began to squeeze him, intent on breaking him in two. Naruto's shrieks filled the growing emptiness as the world was torn apart around them. He couldn't hear anything over the howling winds and the monster's gleeful roar.
"How? How do I hear it?"
"Focus, Naruto," Ayame said softly, almost hypnotically. "It's inside of you… Just listen… Listen…"
Naruto closed his eyes. He could still feel the pain of the Shadow Kyuubi's grip, slowly crushing the life out of him. It stirred up a cacophony of emotions inside him-Pain, anger, fear, terror. All screaming in his mind, smothering anything else…
Ayame's gentle voice cut through, and Naruto focused on that. He drew on her serenity, and the chaos inside his mind softened, quieted. Just enough for him to hear it.
"What… What is it?"
It was like a song he could feel. He couldn't understand the myriad of feelings that came from it-They seemed to make him happy and sad and brave and scared, all at the same time. Like he wanted to run and fly between the stars and clutch at a blanket for protection.
He couldn't describe it. He couldn't understand it.
"Your heart's power," Ayame murmured softly.
"I… I'm scared," he managed, and the song grew faint.
The mist obscured everything outside the mirrors. Naruto found himself on his knees, cradling Sasuke's form in his arms.
"No… No, come on… Not this… Not again!" He cried. "Sasuke! SASUKE!"
"Damnit, idiot… Don't scream… In my face," Sasuke choked out, taking a shuddering breath.
"C'mon Sasuke, what's wrong? You're not going to let a couple of needles take you out, huh? C'mon!"
Naruto shook him violently. Sasuke, in response, managed a wry smile.
"Always were… Too slow…"
Naruto stopped shaking him, and stared in stark disbelief.
"You… I… Why did you…?"
Sasuke coughed, and blood dripped out of his mouth. He was going still, and felt cold and clammy. Horror grew in his heart at this.
"Because… That man...I swore I woudn't die until I killed him, my older brother… thought the oath would save me," Sasuke choked out. Naruto's grip tightened, and Sasuke had to fight the growing numbness to gasp out:
"But you Naruto...don't you dare die! You've… Still got… A dream…"
Darkness swelled up around Sasuke, and Naruto could hear Sakura's scream. He turned to look at her, see her staring in horror.
"I'm sorry," the hunter ninja spoke, and he knew, he knew the girl he'd spoken to before was behind that mask, "he died as a true ninja… He…"
The darkness grew, and began to take form. Burning rage enveloped Naruto, and he snarled at Haku.
"Shut up! SHUT UP! YOU KILLED HIM! I'LL MAKE YOU PAY! I'LL MAKE YOU PAY!"
Red fire mixed with black, and as the sky above turned black, the darkness took on a life of it's own. Even as Naruto lunged for Haku, even as Sakura ran over, abandoning Tazuna to try and protect Sasuke from the inky blackness threatening to take him, above them all, a dark form took shape… And smiled. Ever in the background, beneath the rage, that melody played, but it grew fainter, fainter…
"Naruto! Don't let go!," Ayame called, sounding distant. "Don't let it go! Don't stop, Naruto! Don't let it go! If you do, you will die!"
Naruto struggled in both mind and body. He fought to keep his raging emotions controlled, and he struggled against the iron grip of the Shadow Kyuubi.
The rage enveloping him against Haku was lost in the darkness, and as the world seemed to fall into shadow, the feeling of life in the air seemed to vanish. Sakura screamed his name and Sasuke's, and Kakashi and Zabuza were overwhelmed, lost in the blackness spreading like a flood. He punched Haku, shattered her mask and sent her flying into the sea off the bridge. The rage faded, left only with the realization that he was alone, and the great form of a dark, demonic fox was upon him.
"No… No! What… What is this? I'm losing everything! What's happening? SAKURA! SASUKE! KAKASHI!"
Through the pain and fear and anguish, Ayame's voice came. She was still reaching, still calling him even as his mind and the very Earth seemed to be coming apart.
"Don't let go, Naruto… Don't stop! Don't give up!"
He reached, reached deeper within him, grasping for the song. Through darkness and fear, he chased it, Ayame's voice and the song growing stronger, and stronger.
"Don't stop walking, Naruto! Don't let go! Take it up! Your heart's power!"
The song sang in his ears, and Naruto reached out his hand. He closed his fist around something, Ayame's voice and the song becoming one-
The Shadow Kyuubi bellowed in agony and reared back, missing one claw. Naruto opened his eyes, and beheld the massive monster as it roared. He felt a weight in his hand, and raised it to his eyes.
The weapon he held was definitely no kunai. It was the size of a katana, shaped in the form of a golden key. The square-shaped handle surrounded his fist, and from it's pommel hung a spiral-shaped charm on a chain. Naruto's eyes shifted to the Shadow Kyuubi, bellowing at him in an attempt to intimidate him. But where the monster had seen fear and desperation before, it only saw determination.
Uzumaki Naruto glared back into the eyes of his Death… And it blinked.
"YAAAH!" Naruto bellowed a war cry as he charged the Shadow Kyuubi, the Keyblade held in both hands now. The monster lashed out with its tails, striking like great serpents. With a grunt, Naruto swung and struck one of the tails, driving it back. He dodged another, feeling a strange impulse in his mind. Not one to complain, he followed the mental "cues" in the directions they indicated, and every lash of the Shadow Kyuubi's tails struck nothing but air or the dwindling Earth beneath their feet.
Naruto charged, springing off the ground and into a flip over one of the monstrous fox's tails.
"YAH!" Naruto cried, striking the demon across the nose, before spinning like a top to land another blow before falling back. Naruto grabbed onto one of the Shadow Kyuubi's waving tails and swung himself back up. The fox fell back as Naruto continued raining blows on its head, it's tails moving too slowly to intercept the orange-clad ninja. It snapped and snarled but not a single lash of its tails could even touch its prey.
Yowling in pain as another strike landed between its eyes, the Shadow Kyuubi changed tactics. It fell back off the dwindling bit of Earth it clung to, and struck the bottom violently with it's tail. Above, Naruto lost his balance and yelped as the tug of gravity seemed to change, sending him bouncing and sliding off the top of the field of battle.
"Oh shit!" He shouted, frantically exerting his chakra to stick to the rock. He skidded to a halt, hanging by a palm off the edge of the spit of land left. He stared down in horror at the growing darkness below. It seemed to writhe, as though alive, with islands of rock and earth suspended atop it: All slowly sinking into the abyss.
"Damn… damn…" he muttered, sweating beading on his forehead. He felt a gust of wind blow down on him, and he dared to trace the sensation's path.
A vast, glowing vortex had appeared far below him, being produced by the Shadow Fox's gaping jaws. The demonic kitsune clung to another piece of rock floating in the abyss, glowing eyes narrowed in determination. The pull of the vortex became too strong, and Naruto felt the bit of earth he clung to give way.
"SHIT!" Naruto cursed falling for the vortex. The dark demon's glowing eyes narrowed in triumph. Naruto saw this, and glared right back. Answering another strange, unconscious cue, he pulled back the arm holding the Keyblade, as though winding up to throw a baseball, and hurled his weapon into the maelstrom.
The Keyblade made contact with the vortex, and caused it to explode in light. Naruto's vision was stolen, and he was sent flying up to land on hard Earth. With a groan, he rubbed the spots out of his eyes furiously. The Keyblade reappeared in his hand, just in time for him to feel another cue and raise the weapon in defense.
"GAH!" He shouted, knocked off his feet by a swing of the Shadow Kyuubi's tail. He rolled, managing to kick himself back up and evade the monster's snapping jaws. It's eyes widened as Naruto, vision clear, raised the Keyblade up high above it's neck.
"RRRAAARRRR-!" It's death scream was cut short into silence, and the monster's head split off from it's head. A great heart emerged from within, and flew up into the dark sky. Naruto leaned on the Keyblade, trying to catch his breath. The events occurring around him, however, would wait for nothing, and the ground beneath him gave way. He was summarily sent tumbling into the abyss.
"Oh crap! AAAAHHHHH!"
He saw a bright light, which grew and grew around him even as the remnants of the world dissolved into darkness. Just before he was overwhelmed, a single thought crossed his mind.
What in the hell happened to this being a 'routine mission'?
There you have it. First chapter of the revised version of "Key Through the Heart", which is entitled "Key Through the Heart: Final Mix". This version is more streamlined, better edited, better outlined and more focused than the original, which is more of a rough draft. I will keep the original version up though. This version will be updated more frequently than the old one, as with the considerable help of The Fanfiction Forum and my good friend Captain Sarcasm, we have a firm course for this story to punch right through writer's block like… Something easily punched through.
In the meantime, the same rules for the original version apply to this one. If you have omakes, submit them. I will include up to three per chapter.
If you have any other questions, don't hesitate to ask. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy "Key Through the Heart: Final Mix". It's going to be quite a ride.