"Do you think…Sasuke is going to be…alright," Hinata asked almost in a whisper so the others from Konoha wouldn't know she was talking to a ghost.
"I am leaving right now to go find him," his brother said before lifting implacable eyes to her. "Hinata, you must go with Kakashi and the others back to Konoha."
A small sigh escaped her as she knew deep down he was right, now that Madara was watching Sasuke's every movement, it was no longer safe for her to be around him.
"Alright," she conceded somewhat reluctantly, but her eyes were dark with concern as she looked at the place where he hovered with his arms crossed firmly in front of him. "…But, what about you? What if…you stop being a ghost…and become dead again?"
Itachi's impassive face softened a fraction when he heard her voice crack and knew this separation was going to be hard for her. But it was inevitable – not only because she was becoming too attached to him, but also because he knew he was on borrowed time.
Like a snake coiling to strike he could feel something was watching him, just waiting until the right moment when his guard was down. The fix of a massive infusion of chakra and electricity he had used to anchor him to this world was only temporary.
"Sasuke will be with me if I need someone to give me chakra," he reminded her calmly, deliberately leaving out the other part. He didn't trust that illogically kind heart of hers not to do something reckless to try to help him.
It was with some relief when he saw Kakashi had finished his meeting with the Gokage and was headed in their direction.
"The rest of the villages refuse to deal any more with Danzo in his role as acting Hokage," Kakashi shared in a low voice as the others gathered around him. "Because of his duplicity today, they no longer trust him."
"Yeah well, as soon as that jerk made Sasuke a missing nin, that was when I stopped trusting the old man, he is a real asshole," Naruto commented loudly.
"Keep your voice down, Idiot," Sakura whispered harshly while clotting him on the back of his head with her open hand. Her eyes grew hard as steel as she added. "But in this instance I would have to say you're are right, the guy IS A JERK for going after Sasuke like that."
Kakashi shook his head and rested it in his hand in frustration. It seemed whenever anything related to Sasuke was mentioned it was getting harder and harder to keep Sakura and Naruto from freaking out. Deep down though, he never thought to rebuke them, he knew what it was like to lose a team-mate, the pain of it wasn't something a person just gets over, it stays with you long after they are gone.
"I am going to Sasuke," Hinata heard Itachi say in her ear as her eyes immediately darted to where he had been before and she saw he had vanished.
She nodded with a frown and her thoughts immediately went back to Sasuke and hoped he was alright. She could tell that his brother was unusually worried about him. Her eyes drifted upward bringing her focus back on the group around her and when her eyes landed on her team-mate, she saw he was watching her with avid curiosity lurking in his eyes.
Hinata quickly looked away and hoped he wouldn't ask her any questions.
Kiba was going to ask her about the odd conversations she kept having with herself when a familiar scent reached his nose. He looked over at Akamaru to confirm it and soon received a swift bark in response.
His long-over-due conversation with Hinata would have to wait until another time. "Kakashi-sensei," he said quickly, and immediately after he saw he had everyone's attention he stated, "I know where Sasuke is, he is with Danzo."
For a moment the whole group tensed up before Sakura and Naruto shared a grimly anxious look and without speaking they picked up their gear and looked to Kiba to show them the way. No words were necessary, they all knew what it meant for Sasuke to be near Danzo.
Blood was about to be shed, there wasn't a minute to be spared. Within seconds they were lined up with Kiba and Hinata in the lead of the formation.
Kakashi's mouth straightened into a determined line beneath his mask as he followed behind Sakura and Naruto. His heart felt heavy as he thought about his former genin, and he wondered for about the hundredth time if he could have done something different back then when they were all together.
After several moments he finally shook his head as though clearing it of painful memories, knowing such ruminations were pointless, Sasuke had never gotten over losing his family and he refused to accept them as a partial replacement. Still, he couldn't help but wish things had turned out differently because in his mind, Sasuke would always be a member of Team Seven.
Itachi arrived at the bridge and saw Sasuke and Danzo were facing each other and appeared to be talking and watching them from above and sitting on a ledge was Madara.
His ghostly eyes narrowed in suspicion at the sight of his former Akatsuki leader watching over his brother. Knowing Madara very rarely observed fights personally, he almost always sent Zetsu to record it for him secretly.
Cloaking himself with invisibility, Itachi hovered near him hoping to glean some information. He knew it was a gamble because Madara has been able to sense his presence before, but he felt he had to try. Any information he might learn, no matter how small, might give him a better understanding of Madara's future plans for his brother.
Below them, Sasuke just used Susano'o to crush Danzo after questioning him about Itachi's mission to kill the clan under the elder's orders.
Itachi watched how his brother wielded his former jutsu as more than just a defense, but also as a weapon of deadly force. He couldn't help but be proud of his brother's skill, yet a frown formed on his face knowing the heavy toll in chakra his brother had just expended needlessly.
Not only that, he couldn't hear what was being said below, but he could tell his brother was furious about something. Susano'o was glowing with malice and darkness in ways that he had never seen before.
A new Danzo appeared and Itachi's eyes opened wide when he heard Madara acknowledge his presence.
"First Susano'o and now Amaterasu, your brother is going too far, just to test Danzo. Sadly, he does not have your level of chakra control, Itachi-kun," Madara commented without even looking in his direction.
Understanding he was given an indirect invitation to join his former leader, Itachi joined him on the ledge. "Sasuke is allowing his emotions, rather than his intellect to guide him," his brother responded impassively.
Madara seemed pleased by the idea and his amusement showed in his voice, "Yes, I believe you are right."
Down below them Karin yelled, "Sasuke! Behind you!" and he just narrowly missed being blown to bits by the elder's Wind Style Vacuum Bullets jutsu. He was bleeding from the shoulder and Itachi raised an elegant eyebrow when he saw his brother summon a giant falcon and begin to fly around while riding on its back.
"Hmm, when did he get that?" Madara mused out loud.
Itachi paid him no heed, but silently applauded his brother for at least having the presence of mind to keep some of his abilities secret from Madara. He knew from experience that wasn't an easy thing to do.
As the fight continued, Itachi grew increasingly worried that Sasuke would not have the strength or chakra reserves to continue to fight Danzo's forbidden Izanagi jutsu. After all, the crafty man had over ten Sharingan to use, while Sasuke only had one life, even with Susano'o to protect him.
"Sasuke is allowing Danzo to goad him," Madara commented, no longer amused by what he was seeing. The hand his chin was resting on turned into a tight fist. "He is too reckless."
Itachi couldn't help but agree, but he wasn't about to show Madara just how concerned he was. Although, he knew his brother would ultimately find a way to win this fight, he just knew it was going to inflict a heavy toll on his brother's psyche and set him on a path of revenge that would probably be irrevocable.
Beside him, Itachi started to notice the more his brother's chakra began to grow darker and malevolent, the more Madara's demeanor began to grow darkly pleased. He raised his eyes and felt all his hopes of saving his brother diminish even more.
Then a miracle occurred and the team from Konoha, along with Hinata, showed up and surrounded Danzo on the bridge. Itachi moved in closer so he could hear what was being said below.
Kakashi eyed the elder and Root Leader with disgust at the sight of ten closed Sharingan on the old man's arm. "Your time as Hokage is now at an end Danzo," Kakashi pronounced coolly, deliberately treating him without the respect an elder deserves. "I am taking you back to Konoha to be tried for crimes against the village you have sworn to protect."
"Like hell you are," Sasuke snapped furiously. "He is mine. If anyone is going to execute this piece of shit, scumbag, it is going to be me."
Beginning to feel like he was being backed into a wall, Danzo tried to stonewall and deflect like the corrupt and shady politician he was. "I don't take orders from YOU, I will step down when I receive orders from the proper authority, the Daimyo."
"Hmm, I am sure those all of those Sharingan embedded in your arm, just showed up there by accident, or did you receive a little help from…Oro…"
"Shut your mouth Kakashi," Danzo ordered with eyes that had narrowed into angry slits. How dare that upstart son of a traitor undermine all that he had accomplished with the blood and sacrifices of so many.
"Oh, I am just getting started, Danzo…either come back with me peaceably or I…" Kakashi left off with a casual shrug that implied heavily that he would start talking.
"Well, I'll say something," Sakura interrupted, her green eyes flashed with anger toward the old man in front of her. "Sai didn't tell me, but I figured out you had sent him to assassinate Sasuke long before he was listed as a rogue shinobi."
"You bastard!" Naruto yelled raising his fist to punch the old geezer in the face. He would have tried, but his sensei stopped him by stepping in front of him.
"Patience Naruto, he will get what is coming to him soon," Kakashi said to him quietly in a soothing voice.
Danzo saw all of these eyes pinning him down on him making him feel like a cornered animal, in one direction there was Madara, who was obviously after Shisui's eye and in another there was the group from Konoha who was out to expose him.
"Don't forget about me, old man," Sasuke's voice said ominously in his ear from behind him. Strands of lightning began encircling around Danzo's body, tightening and digging into his flesh, burning his skin. Pulling the strand tighter for the kill, Sasuke was surprised when a log poofed in front of him.
Damn it, where is he?
Kiba found him first and his harshly sucked in breath was a chilling sound when Sasuke looked up and saw Danzo was up on top of a ledge and he had a razor sharp kunai resting against Hinata's throat.
"Hinata," Kiba choked out. "Take me, you bastard. Let her go!"
"No," Danzo said in a contemptuously calm voice that belied his true fears, especially when a quick glance showed Madara had stood up and was looking in his direction. Kakashi and the Nine Tails container were also advancing slowly toward him.
He tightened his blade against her throat and took a step back so they were flush against a wall. "You have brought me nothing but trouble Hyuuga. It is only fitting that you die with me."
Hinata wasn't afraid to die, yet she knew if she went now she would feel regret. In front of her was Sasuke, her unfinished mission. She didn't want to leave him.
Her gaze met his and hope began to flare in her heart at what she saw in them. She saw conflict as if he was fighting a war inside of himself. His usually self-assured, hard visage that he stared down the world was noticeably absent for once.
She gave him a brave, yet tremulous smile, don't worry about me, do what you have to do, her eyes clearly told him.
"I-I am not afraid to die," Hinata stated out loud so everyone could hear her.
Unable to remove his eyes from her pale face, Sasuke felt hopelessly numb as he heard her brave words, for inside the dark and twisted vortex of hate he felt for the old man in front of him, there was a light shining through it.
That light, he admitted to himself only now when it was too late, was Hinata.
"Sasuke, you promised me you would protect her," Itachi reminded him as he suddenly appeared beside him.
"It's too late for that," he gritted out and was surprised at just how badly the words hurt to say as the reality of revenge was getting more painful by the minute.
"It is for me," his brother said with a touch of sadness in his voice, that Sasuke couldn't quite understand, "…but not for you."
The mystery of his brother's words was soon solved when he saw who Itachi was looking at.
Then suddenly, as though sludging through thick mud in slow motion, everyone began to move at once, he could hear Naruto screaming his name. Danzo began making hand signs and muttering something under his breath.
Sasuke watched as Itachi rushed to Hinata and said something to her, in the next moment as though the old man had planned it, Danzo released her and she swiveled around and pushed so much chakra into his Sharingan that it exploded under her fingers.
A small smile appeared on Danzo's face as he started to collapse and the seal on his chest began to spray out into a massive sphere of black death.
Recognizing the danger that chakra-ball represented, Kakashi ordered his team to fall back, and they all scrambled to safety.
Karin also managed to scuttle out of the way at the far end of the bridge, taking shelter under a large support beam.
Angered at losing his prize possession, Shisui's eye, Madara passed through the Hyuuga before sinking through the bottom of the bridge. An ugly smirk touched his lips as he watched Sasuke's desperate rush toward Danzo to try to save the foolish girl.
You are too late, Sasuke.
Then in a burst of black, surrounded by flashes of purple and white, Danzo's Reverse Tetragram Sealing jutsu exploded.
Author's Note: Forgive any obvious errors please, I just couldn't wait any longer to post this chapter and I am anxious to get chapter 20 done. I sincerely apologize for taking so long to update this story. I have had to deal with a lot of personal problems lately and it was just too difficult for me to focus on a story, especially one aligned as closely to the manga/anime as this one is. As always, I would love to hear from all of you, especially long time readers. *Hugs*
Additional Note: I have to say that when I was reading the manga and watching the anime, I really disliked how kindly Kishimoto treated Danzo's character. After I saw all of those Sharingan embedded into his arm and Shisui's eye transplanted into his eye socket it made me realize what a monster the character truly was. It also made me suspect that more could have been done to prevent the Uchiha massacre. Anyway, I think his actions were criminal and the Third Hokage was probably a little blinded by his friendship with the man to his true character, just like he had been in his relationship with his student, Orochimaru. Anyway, thanks for letting me rant, please feel free to let me know if you agree or not:)