After a long, unexpected Hiatus, here is the next chapter. Sorry for the lateness.
"He was here I assure you!" the dog barked at the white haired ninja. "His scent is still fresh."
"Right, right. But why was he at a beach?" the aforementioned ninja scratched his head.
"Your former comrade is very peculiar isn't he, Naruto? Didn't know he was that kinda guy." A pale ninja who was painting a bird from his scroll said blankly. "Is he a player?"
"Oi! Don't talk about Sasuke like that!" 'Naruto' retorted but added with a bit of a resentful tone, "Well, you're probably right about the player thing…" He didn't get to finish because he was clobbered by a pink haired girl.
"He might have taken a boat or something and went into the ocean. Though I don't get why since the villagers and all the maps say that there's nothing across from the ocean. They'll just come right back on the other side of the mainland…"
"Whatever, let's get one of those ships or maybe one of those flying things."
"Oi, wake him up with a kiss, Karin..."
"Calm down, you two. I think he's waking."
Oi, Sasuke! Get up already!" There was a sharp pain that came from his side.
"Hey, don't kick him!"
"What? I just nudged him is all…"
"What's going on?" Sasuke sat up, slowly, rubbing his eyes. He looked around to find Karin, Suigetsu, and Juugo crouching next to him. "Huh? Everyone…"
"You've been out for a while now, Sasuke." Suigetsu grinned. "I was starting to wonder whether you were dead!"
"And it would be your fault if he was!" Karin shot at the rogue Mist ninja. "That kick was totally uncalled for! Sasuke-kun's still recovering from his wounds after all."
"So now what?" Juugo asked intently, helping Sasuke to his feet. "Should we continue to Konoha?"
"We were going to visit your friends remember?" Karin reminded him. "Naruto and the rest invited you over to watch the Chuunin Exams and all."
"Is…is that so?"
"What's up, man?" Suigetsu asked, looking amused. "You seem a little out of it. If you let your guard down someone might kill you…"
"As if!" Karin punched him.
"Ow, that hurt!"
"It was supposed to."
"We were heading to Konoha…huh?"
"What's wrong, Sasuke?" Juugo asked, a hint of concern in his voice.
"I don't know…" He frowned and massaged his temples furiously. His head hurt. "I had this…dream."
"A dream, huh?" Suigetsu said, uncaringly. "I dream a lot, too. Of killing the seven swordsmen and taking their swords for instance…"
"Nobody asked you."
Sasuke ignored Karin and Suigetsu's bickering and addressed Juugo. "Where are we?"
"Who knows?" Juugo's reply seemed oddly eerie. "We could be anywhere…You were the one who led us here."
He pondered over this. Then, "I had a weird dream."
"What was it about?"
"It was about this other place." He paused trying to describe to them. "There were these people there that could play with the elements like ninjas but more in tune with nature. Benders, I think, they called themselves…" He scratched his head. "Everything seemed so real. But now I wonder…It was a dream after all, huh?"
Juugo stared in front of him over at the shifting landscape. Now that Sasuke had a proper look around, everything seemed kind of blurry. Maybe it was the heat of the sun…
"Maybe it was real." His comrade gave a slight shrug. "There are a lot of things that seem like a dream but are real. And others that seem real but are actually not. Like this…" He gestured around him.
"Whoa, that was pretty deep." Suigetsu drawled as he dodged another punch from Karin.
Juugo ignored him and turned to Sasuke. "Are you sure you're not dreaming now, Sasuke?"
Sasuke opened his eyes blearily to searing sunlight. "A dream…"
He looked around him and saw that he had been sleeping among clouds. He did a double take. The scenery didn't change. He was atop an open ship deck sailing empty space instead of water. He went to the side and stared down. They were pretty high up…He could see islands dotting the mainland but only barely. If there weren't the occasional flares of active volcanoes a normal person wouldn't even be able to know they were there.
"Hahaha, never thought I could see you that confused ever." Came a bell-like voice. He turned to see Ty Lee sitting across from him. Staring around again, he took in that they were on the deck of an airship of sorts. There were huge rings full of fire at every interval in a straight line across the ship, pumping hot air into the colossal balloon above them.
"Where am I?"
"We're just about clear of the Fire Nation border." Iroh replied climbing up onto the deck. "You've been out for a couple weeks again. We dealt with most of the enemies around the Fire Nation's borders and now we're heading over to land of spirits where Aang learned his anti-bending."
"I was out again, huh…"
"Geez, you shouldn't overexert yourself too much!" Katara exclaimed.
"We should start calling you Mister Comatose from now on." Ty Lee teased taking a tray of food to him. "You always seem to be in one after all."
"Right." Sasuke sighed, smirking. "I guess I should stop that." Then a question suddenly popped up in his mind. "How have you been dealing with the undead?"
"Undead?" Sokka asked, curious, abandoning his position at the ship's prowl.
"Those guys that won't die…" Sasuke explained slowly as if he were talking to a child. "You know…" The girls were trying not to laugh.
"Oh, those!" Iroh exclaimed, unknowingly breaking Sokka from a heated and possibly stupid retort. "We used this ritual bending of sorts…" He paused. "Well, that's what I call it. Would you like some tea?"
"No, thanks." He held up a hand refusing the cup. It was pushed into it anyway. He sighed. "Ritual Bending, huh?" Probably this world's equivalent of a sealing juts no doubt he thought. "Anyone can do this?"
"Why, yes." Iroh replied.
"It's really interesting." Ty Lee piped up. "It's like bending spirits or at least summoning them."
"And banishing them." Aang finished landing on the deck, having flown in using his staff/hang-glider. "I discovered it after visiting the spirit world a couple of times. Learned it from a turtle there…"
"A turtle...I see." Sasuke closed his eyes, trying to shake off the remnants of his fatigue. "When will we get to the land of the spirits?"
"I don't know…" Aang said, troubled. "When I visit, it sort of just happens…"
"Maybe its just an avatar thing, eh?" Katara wondered.
"I don't know. I was able to bring Appa and Momo with me though."
"We're not animals." was Sasuke's curt reply.
"R-right, hahaha," the monk scratched his head sheepishly. "Maybe it's just an Avatar/animal thing…"
"We should try to at least make contact with it nonetheless." Zuko chipped in, as he came from below deck. "Everything's fixed now. The airship didn't get hit much after our fight with the pursuers."
"For now, let's just get some rest. To be honest, I'm beat." Suki yawned, stretching lazily. "You might want to get something to eat before that though, Sasuke." She glanced him over. "Although it doesn't show, I can bet your body is weakening from all those days comatose."
Sasuke stared down at his arms, frowning. He couldn't really argue the matter since he really did feel weak. He grunted as he got to his feet and steadily made his way below deck. Grabbing some food at the supplies room, he continued to follow the rest to the bedrooms.
He looked into a few of the rooms with doors ajar and found them to be empty. He didn't really want to believe what he initially thought but it seemed that the Avatar and his gang were the only ones aboard. They must've left the front lines in order to train themselves. But…was that really alright? This world to his knowledge…was pretty weak. Kabuto with his hordes of resurrected ninjas and benders alike would be a very formidable enemy. To just leave the fray in a situation like this would probably mean that they were desperate. More desperate than they were letting on.
"This ritual bending…will it change the tides of the war?" Sasuke thought aloud, gazing up at the ceiling's dim lights. From his peripheral vision he could see a couple of figures stiffen. So they really were desperate…
"We hope…" Zuko replied grimly. "But even with that Aang was near death when the enemy retreated. Those people really did a number on us."
"Hmmm…" They had finally arrived at one of the empty rooms.
"This is yours." Suki said. "We decided to have the girls have one side of the hall and the boys to have the other."
"My room is right across from yours so if you need anything…" Ty Lee chimed in. The others looked at her with conspiratorial gazes. She flushed. "Not like that." She tried to correct, waving her hands in front of her as if to clear a vision.
After awhile things died down into silence, the group had all entered their rooms to catch some sleep and all that could be heard was the wind blowing outside and the creaking of airship. Sasuke didn't feel tired. He's slept far more than he had actually wanted to so he took the time to wander around the halls. He found himself above deck again. It was night but he could clearly make out the rippling of the sea beneath the ship from the moonlight. There was a sense of eerie calm again. That calm that was always followed by dread. Too quiet. Too peaceful.
His mind retraced a few steps back to his dream. It reminded him of his world. Perhaps it was telling him to go back. Something may have happened. He didn't know.
He let the thought die. It was useless to ponder over dreams. Like this one, they tended to not make any sense. They were just fragments formed full of the sub-conscience's lost memory.
More importantly was this weird island they were heading to. How long could they stay before the front line crumbles? A week? A few days?
"Ah, so you can't sleep either." He turned to the voice to see the Fire Lord Zuko was walking up to him hands in his pockets. "Thinking about the island?"
"Yeah." He turned to look over the railings at the dark sea below. "Wondering whether it's worth the trip and the time."
"Most of us are. But it's probably our only hope. The island gave Aang the power to take away a person's power. Who knows what it can give us. An edge at least…to fight the enemies."
"There is nothing to be gained for me. I am not a bender or even a person of this world. I don't need some power up."
"Probably not." Zuko conceded. "But we decided to take you with us not so you could get something from the island but to heal. You've been straining yourself a lot recently. Pulling off large scale attacks and all."
"I see." He paused. "I hope we make it in time."
A mist was beginning to cover the entirety of the sea around them. As Sasuke looked closer, he could've sworn that the swirling vapor were ethereal bodies and not just an aspect of Mother Nature. There was a thump to his side. His eyes flew toward the general direction in the darkness. Zuko's unconscious form lay there. He had collapsed for no reason. Was there somebody else on the ship? He checked the Fire lord's vitals…alive.
He ran below deck, carrying Zuko over his shoulder. He lay the teen at the bottom of the stairs and continued. There should be some people over at the front, overlooking the ship's control. He remembered that old man and that water girl making their way over there. There should be monitors there, too. Something felt wrong. He didn't sense anybody had entered the ship… Was it the mist?
Sasuke found Iroh and Katara knocked out, too. Mist had completely fogged over the portholes. On the ship's monitors, there he could see that there was some kind of concentrated hurricane coming their way. This was bad. He glanced over at the controls. Even if he did know how to direct the airship away, they wouldn't make it in time. The turbulent storm was coming their way fast.
The ship lurched sideways, furniture and supplies were hurled around. Sasuke grunted, keeping his footing.
Besides that, what was up with everyone besides him going unconscious? It had to be the mist right? A part of him wanted to believe that to be so…but he couldn't quite shake the feeling. The door suddenly slammed open, and Ty Lee, Suki, and Sokka came crashing through. Sasuke's eyes widened in surprise. What…?
"Toph and Aang wouldn't wake up no matter what we did!" Sokka explained through the confusion, panting, his eyes flitting around bewildered. His eyes made his way to Iroh and Katara, then to Sasuke. "W-What happened to them?!" Anger started to cross his features. "Did you do this? I knew you were bad news from the start! Just what did you do to them?!" He reached for his sword.
"Calm down," Suki bonked him on the head. "Sasuke's saved our asses many times already. You think he did this?"
"Just what is going on here?" Ty Lee asked, hands to her heart. She looked lost.
"I don't get this either. I was on deck when that guy Zuko suddenly collapsed. I thought it was the mist. But it doesn't seem so."
"Wait!" Sokka's eyes widened. He hurried over to Katara and pried her eyes open for a moment. Her eyes were glowing slightly. "Thinking back on it, Aang was like this whenever he went into the Spirit World. If all of the ones who have collapsed show the same signs as this it would mean that they've all been sucked into the Spirit World."
"But why not us?" Suki asked.
"We're not benders. So I guess we can't cross over there." Sokka relied after awhile, rubbing the back of his head, thinking.
"Then why not Sasuke?"
"I'm not a bender either, remember? My powers are completely different than that of this world's." Sasuke closed his eyes. Another lurch of the ship and everyone braced themselves. A sudden jolt…like a sudden premonition…hit Sasuke. He glanced over at the one of the monitor's again. The storm was almost upon them. "I don't think we can stay on this ship anymore. We're jumping overboard." He grabbed Iroh and hauled him over his shoulder. "Quick, get the others, we're getting out of here. That storm doesn't look too good. It doesn't look norma-" He didn't get to finish because there was a feeling as if a meteor had slammed into the hull of the ship.
Everyone was sent tumbling. A feeling of weightlessness. The engine cut. The ship plunged down.
I had to change the majority of the story from what I had originally intended but even that is not much of an excuse for the late update so I apologize. DX Anyway,until next time~! See ya!