He smiled, wrapping his arms around her, and they fell asleep wrapped in each other's limbs, unknowing of the dangers approaching.
Naruto stood in the Council chambers, listening to the reports being given. He wore his new armor, presenting an intimidating ruler as the spies talked. "Count Dooku was killed by Anakin Skywalker in the rescue of the Chancellor," one told him. "As soon as they touched down, the Jedi Council and the Chancellor put together an invasion force, having Gaara take command as a result of his familiarity with our planet. Even as we speak they are heading this way. We have approximately twelve hours until they arrive."
"Why didn't we hear of this before?" Naruto asked, casually resting his hand on his lightsaber hilt. The spy swallowed hard, before answering.
"During the battle, all communications were jammed. Our spy on Coruscant was within range of the jammer, and afterwards security was stepped up so much that he was unable to get to a long-range communicator until just now." Naruto sighed, rubbing his temples before motioning for the spies physically present to leave. Lee, one of the guards who had brought them in, bowed, before leaving with the rest of his team in tow. The Kages shifted restlessly in their seats, watching Naruto anxiously as he thought of what to do.
"The Republic will want to give one more attempt to avoid bloodshed. They'll send Gaara down to try and talk to us, get us to give up. When that fails, they'll do an invasion. They'll try to keep civilians out of it, but people will die. Kakashi!" Naruto barked, turning to his former sensei. "Round up all non-residents on the planet. Visiting merchants, vacationers, whoever. When Gaara leaves the negotiation, see to it that they go off-world with him! Sith I may be, but this war is a Kironian war. We don't need to kill off-worlders in our fight."
"Yes, my Lord," Kakashi said, bowing and hurrying off to obey.
"Kages, assemble your peoples and have them congregate in preparation for a conference. I'll fill them in on the situation, and I'll assign tasks for them." The men and women bowed, quickly filing out, and Naruto sighed, standing before the table in the center of the room. "My cloak!" he barked out, and Ahsoka appeared at his elbow, helping him put on his black hooded cloak over the flanged armor. Removing his jagged helm from his head, he held it under one arm as he activated the table's holo-map, observing the city's environs and layout.
"Zoom in on District 17, Subsection 2 of 3," he said, watching as the map changed, zooming in on the dock area he had selected. "Flag as likely invasion site. Adequate defensibility. Post a squadron of five at each of the three entrances. Post three two-man sniper teams at high positions, preferably inside the customs offices. Create crude defensive structures out of the crates, providing cover for the primary defenders. Station Asuma as commander for the area."
"What do you want of me?" Ahsoka asked, gently touching his arm. Naruto remained silent, his thoughts whirring as he pondered his options.
"In my chambers, you will find the slave princess outfit you wore when you were on the mission to free your people. I want you to go put it on, and I'll make it look like I've made you my slave." At the strange look she gave him, he smiled awkwardly, rubbing his neck in embarrassment. "I thought it might work in a role-playing scenario." Ahsoka rolled her eyes, before she ran off. "Such a shame about Dooku," he murmured to himself as he turned back to the map. "Despite his other faults, that man was an artist with a lightsaber. I had hoped to fight him again after our match in the tunnels of the Coliseum, but I suppose it will never happen."
Yes, so dies an unsung artist, Kurama mocked, his mood foul again. Darkness surrounded that man, and it permeates me because of you. You had so much potential, but you decided to throw it all away.
You know why I did what I did, Naruto replied. Anko makes Kakashi happier than I've ever seen him, and she's a friend besides. I couldn't let the Republic execute her after the mockery her trial would have been.
You could have used your connections in the Senate, Kurama growled. Senator Amidala owes you for keeping her secret, you know Senator Chuchi fairly well, Senator Organa has proven friendly to our causes more than once, and with Kakashi being a Senator here as well, you could have made a strong defense.
Four Senators out of hundreds, and one the husband of the accused. Say what you want, Kurama, the past is done with. Is this because you thirst again? Naruto was met with silence, and he sighed, raising his hood. We have a little time until the conference. I suppose I can sate your thirst, if only temporarily.
Gaara remained silent as he gazed down at Kironia from the command bridge as the Republic assembled a blockade. His fingers gently felt out the hilt of his lightsaber, feeling cool, familiar metal. Taking a deep breath, he strode forward to the comm center, typing in the codes and commands required to set up a link. When I press this button, I'm going to be forever labeled as a traitor to my kind. Taking another deep breath, Gaara activated the link, watching as it shifted into an image of a figure in flanged armor, his face shrouded underneath a hooded cloak.
"Gaara, my friend," Naruto said, lowering the hood. The Jedi inhaled in shock as he took in his friend's appearance. Naruto's skin had paled, his eyes were slowly beginning to change color, and his Zabrak horns, those not trimmed to fit under the helmet, were becoming jagged and long, forming a crown-like structure on his head. His silver-blond hair was cut short, just reaching the back of his neck rather than his shoulder blades like it had before. As Naruto rubbed his fresh-shaven chin, Gaara noticed that his nails had lengthened into the claw-like variation they had when Kurama was in full possession.
"Naruto," Gaara acknowledged, closing his eyes. "I have to give you one last chance to surrender, my friend." Naruto gave an amused grin, tossing his cloak off-screen before working on taking off his armor. "If you will surrender yourself and Anko Hatake, the Republic will leave Kironia alone. We will not prosecute the Kage, the people, or Senator Hatake."
"I'm sad, Gaara," Naruto said as he set the last of his armor down, leaving him in black trousers and a grey shirt. "I had thought that you of all people, a Jinchuuriki who was wrongly persecuted for something beyond your control, would understand why I am doing this."
"Starting a revolution? Maybe I could understand that, Naruto, but declaring yourself a Sith?! Attacking the Jedi in our home, stealing Ahsoka and doing who knows what with her?! You made me swear once to end you if you went down this path!" Silence reined on the comlink, and Naruto's eyes narrowed. He opened his mouth, but before he could say anything a shot slammed into his chest, sending him flying out of view of the comlink in a spray of blood. "Aurra Sing was my only option. I'm sorry, Naruto."
"Tell me your greatest strength, so I know how best to undermine you; tell me your greatest fear, so I know what I must force you to face; tell me what you cherish most, so I know what to take from you; and tell me what you crave, so that I might deny you."
Naruto opened his eyes, finding himself standing in a swamp, near-identical to the caves of Dagobah. Sidious stood before him, his cloaked features pressing in on the young man. Another figure, tall, mechanized, and equally intimidating stood behind him. Then there was Darth Maul, Count Dooku, Savage Oppress, and thousands of other Sith that Naruto had read about. The words came from thousands of mouths, thousands of voices all raised in thousands of languages. Kurama appeared before Naruto, his appearance haggard and agitated. The Bijuu held a broken steel blade in his left hand, the bare edge digging into his palm, black blood dripping between his fingers. He staggered forward, his eyes white and pupil-less, and the words fell from his tongue as well, though strained and heavy with exhaustion.
Naruto's fingers fell to his lightsaber, and he swiftly drew the blade, activating it just as he focused on its hilt. It was the three-pronged hilt he had seen Kurama bear in his corrupted version, and Naruto saw that the back of his hands had black marks on them, lightning-shaped burns running up his arms. The blade ejected with the usual snap-hiss, and the moisture in the air fell off the crimson blade in a fine mist.
He gasped when he felt a knife stab into his back, and he discovered that somehow he had gotten turned around, breaking the cardinal rule to never turn one's back toward one's enemy. Naruto roared, whipping around and ramming the blade through Kurama's abdomen just as his appearance changed into Ahsoka's.
"Naruto…" she managed to gasp, blood dribbling from the corner of her mouth. "Why?" A strangled cry escaped his throat, and he deactivated the lightsaber even as he caught her, sinking to the ground with her corpse. A bright light emanated from the swampy cave, and suddenly he was kneeling in the bombed-out shell of Republic City, the sky red and orange, smoke replacing clouds and post-bomb fires still burning everywhere. Ahsoka's body was now Anko's, the pregnant woman's eyes unseeing orbs, and then the body was Tsunade's, then Ara's, before he was standing once more on the snowy wasteland, staring at Darth Sidious and the mechanical man. He blinked, and the man was kneeling before him, wheezing and gasping, Naruto's blade posed at his throat.
Ahsoka gazed down at Naruto's pale form as Tsunade kept pressure on the hole in his chest as she tried to heal the wound, her pale green chakra mixing with Kurama's bubbling energy that almost felt corrupted just looking at it. The Raikage held Aurra Sing in his powerful grasp, the bounty hunter searching for any possible means of escape available to her. Kakashi stood next to her, shaking in some emotion she couldn't identify, and all of a sudden, he was in front of Sing, his Lightning Blade arching in front of her throat. "You had better hope he survives," he told her, moving it forward just enough for one of the strands to give her a shallow cut, "or else you will wish that you had never heard of Kironia."
"I'm guessing that just about everyone in the galaxy is wishing that about now," Naruto said as his eyes opened. "I'm alright, Tsunade. Let me up." The woman hesitated, obviously wanting to protect the young man she thought of as a grandchild, before she reluctantly stepped aside. "Now," Naruto said, walking until he was in front of Aurra Sing, carefully observing every inch of her uniform, equipment, and muscular form. "I see another who once was Jedi, but is no longer." Aurra, to her credit, neither confirmed nor denied his statement; indeed, she didn't so much as blink, and Naruto continued. "Do you know who I am, Aurra?"
"You are Naruto Uzumaki. Until recently you were a member of the Jedi Council; to my knowledge, the youngest in history. Now you claim the title of Sith Lord, going by the name of Darth Kurama. Your preferred combat style is a Jar'Kai variant of Vaapad, though it more closely resembles Juyo these days. On occasion, you are known to join the two blades together to use them as a saberstaff."
"As informed as a bounty hunter should be," Naruto said simply, neither impressed nor disappointed. "I assume that you gleaned all of this information from Gaara, though there may be one or two people who know of my fighting style who aren't Jedi. Now, you put me in a difficult position, Aurra. You see, a crime such as attempted assassination carries harsh penalties for those who are caught. If I so choose, I can have you executed right here." Aurra remained silent, though Naruto noticed that her breaths were ever so slightly quicker, and her nostrils flared just the tiniest amount. "You bounty hunters take on very dangerous work, similar to the work we do here on Kironia. Therefore, I will release you on the following conditions."
"There's always a catch," she finally said, trying and failing to pull her arms out of the Raikage's grip. "Well, let's hear it."
"You will tell Gaara that I am alive, and that I am going to send all off-worlders off the planet in five hours' time so they are not caught in the crossfire. The Republic is not to fire on these ships, because the people are non-combatant civilians. You will not return to assassinate me. Finally, you will leave this war-torn place and continue on with your life." Naruto motioned for A to release her, and the woman gave him a cautious gaze as she slowly backed out of the chambers, sure that she was about to be tricked.
The next twelve hours were a hectic blur for Naruto. As he had said, he sent those off-worlders present on Kironia to the Republic ships with the message that they were to be escorted to safety, and he gave his speech to those Kironians who were shinobi, samurai, or warriors of other calibers. Once that was done, he set up squads at ambush and defensive sites throughout the city. He re-donned his armor, changed the green crystals in his lightsaber to onyx ones he had been given as a thank-you gift from Anko. The core of the energy blade, normally pure white, was a deep black while the aura it gave off took on the white hue. Once everything was done, he checked on Ahsoka, seeing that she had changed into the slave outfit, ate a quick dinner with her, visited the prison to sate Kurama's bloodlust, then left to take up his own position with a PLX-1 portable missile launcher at the top of the Senate building, the tallest in the city.
Now all there was to do was wait for night to fall as black clouds rolled in.
Waiting was always the hardest part. It wasn't the fear that one might die, or the reluctance to kill someone, even a clone; it was the nervous anticipation of when the sudden struggle would come, the jittery urge to move when he had to make sure he was absolutely still, the knowledge that if he made even the slightest mistake, his people would die because of it. The minutes ticked by, melding into hours, and finally the light began to fade, and his heightened senses detected the sound of incoming troop transports. He rose from his prone position to a kneeling one, setting the launcher on his shoulder and adjusting the settings to follow his target. The sight was quickly adjusted for night-vision, and when the transport finally arrived, Naruto followed its path, waiting for the launcher to finish its lock. Once he heard the beep, he fired, watching the trail it cast as it flew toward the transport. When it suddenly exploded several hundred meters off, he cursed.
Gaara was there.
"Forget the landing, boys, we're gonna jump!" Gaara shouted as he tore open the bay doors. "Jetpacks on, men! Come on, come on!" Those who had the packs on were already pouring out of the doors, firing as they came down to the target area, one suddenly spiraling when one of the shots fired by the rebels – my people, Gaara thought – hit him, penetrating through the pack. One man held one out for Gaara, but he waved it down, and when the last man was out and the transport was beginning to veer away, he leapt, feeling the Force flow around him as he directed his flight and braced for impact.
Lightning flashed and thunder boomed as he touched down, signaling the few seconds before the rain would hit the ground. The water started off lightly as his men quickly found cover, firing at the Kironians spread across the platform while he deflected fire, but within minutes it was a downpour that slammed against the durasteel platform and made it hard to pinpoint the location of various sounds. Lightning flashed again, and suddenly Naruto was standing at the center, dressed in the armor Gaara had seen on the hologram.
"Lay down your arms!" Gaara shouted to the people who were once your own. "Naruto, don't send our people into a slaughter!"
"They are fighting for their rights!" Naruto declared as his lightsabers shot into his hands, his thumbs hovering over the switches. "You grew up in the same conditions I did, Gaara. You know what it is like to have your fate resting in someone else's hands, the hands of someone who feels such loathing that they would kill a child without a second thought."
"Is that what this is about?!" Gaara shouted. "You started a war just to finally feel as though the power was, for the first time in your life, entirely in your own hands!"
"That's not why I started this war," Naruto said calmly, "but it certainly feels good." Without another word, the blades burst into being, twin voids in the fabric of the world, and Gaara was suddenly parrying wild, powerful, yet somehow ordered slashes. As he felt the power and the darkness behind the attacks, Gaara found himself thinking less and less of the name Naruto, and thinking more of Darth Kurama. Gaara quickly switched over to the Vaapad that his enemy had once taught him, lashing at Kurama's neck, but he disregarded it almost as soon as he felt the Sith's inner darkness pour into him. No; darkness wasn't quite the word for it. The Dark Side was present, yes, but there was more pain, anger, rebellion, as if the former Jedi were trapped and finally breaking through to freedom. For the first time in his life, Gaara saw just how broken Naruto had been inside, though he had always somehow been whole.
A paradox within a riddle, wrapped in pain and sealed with joy, he thought as he bent forward at the waist, ducking under a powerful double-slash. Kurama followed through with a roundhouse kick to the midriff, and Gaara stumbled back, raising his lightsaber to block the downward strike raised at his head. Gaara's eyes widened in fear as he realized that the other lightsaber was not in his block, and was currently swinging at his own neck, and found that the pressure of Kurama's offhand lightsaber on his blade was too much for him to be able to block.
A timely shot from one of the clones collided with Kurama's knee, causing the Sith to drop onto the wounded joint, roaring in pain as the collision further aggravated his wound, before a powerful burst of Force Lightning shot in all directions around him. Gaara screamed in agony as his every nerve was set on fire, helpless to do anything but convulse in the manner the electricity forced upon him, and through a haze of pain he saw that every person who had been on the durasteel platform was in the air, electricity coursing through their bodies. As the rain hit his skin, the electricity increased, and he felt his heart flutter in his chest. There was a sudden snap-hiss, and Gaara was on the ground. His hands quickly flew over his body, searching for the entry wound, and when he found none, he looked curiously at Darth Kurama.
What he saw took him by complete surprise.
Naruto's eyes were wide with shock as he stared down at the blade coming out of his neck, Ahsoka sobbing behind him. The Togruta had rammed her blade under the edge of the back of his armor near the waist, up through his chest, and out the other side of his body. Blood dribbled from the corner of his mouth, and his lightsabers fell from numb fingers, the blades disappearing as the hilts touched the platform.
"This wasn't supposed to happen!" she screamed, slamming her fist into his back as she buried her face in his neck. "You were supposed to be in control, to come back to the Jedi!" Naruto's legs buckled, and he slowly sunk to the durasteel below, gasping for air. "You were supposed to be the one person who could show that even in the darkest of times we have hope!"
Naruto drew ragged breath after ragged breath, trying to find the strength to rise, to run, to do something, but Gaara could see in his eyes that the young man knew it was futile. Kurama's – the real one – chakra began to heal Naruto's wounds, but his anger and pain were broken, replaced by the knowledge that he had shattered lives and friendships for naught. "Naruto Uzumaki, Darth Kurama, whatever name you prefer," Gaara said, holding the tip of his lightsaber near his former friend's throat, "in the name of the Republic, I hereby place you under arrest. You will be tried, sentenced, and banished from the Jedi Order." Naruto remained silent, even as the rebels laid down their arms in what would become Kironia's quickest surrender in history, and Ahsoka disappeared into the shadows, her heart utterly shattered.
Everything he thought he stood for, everything he thought he had achieved, was over.
He had failed.
Well, hope you guys enjoyed the Chapter. There's only a few more to go before the completion of this fic, and there will be an upcoming redemption chapter, so please don't go and submit a nasty review just because of a low point. Review, and tell me how I did.