Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or any of its characters.
Warning: Manga spoilers up through Chapter 509.
Sunbeams Through the Rain
"Many waters cannot quench love, nor floods carry it away."
-Song of Solomon, 8:7
Despite the sharp pain in her chest and the tingling of an overburdened chakra network, Konan felt no fear as she stared Madara down. Any fear she might have been expected to feel when facing an "invincible immortal" in battle was overpowered by her anger that Madara would dare to speak of the Rinnegan and Akatsuki as though he owned them, and by her determination not to let Nagato and Yahiko's deaths be in vain.
And she could see quite clearly that Madara wasn't so invincible after all. His mask was broken, part of his cloak had been burned away...and his right arm ended at the elbow. So you can be hurt. And if you can be hurt, you can be killed.
She wondered if Madara was surprised by her opposition. After all, he was claiming to be in pursuit of peace, just as she and her teammates had been. But she knew that the peace Madara promised was only an empty illusion. It wasn't what Yahiko had searched for at all.
Yahiko and Konan had always been together. Their parents lived next door to each other, so they had played together since they were old enough to stand. When Amegakure erupted into civil war, they didn't understand what was going on, but they knew that their parents and siblings were worried all the time, and that they often saw people in their neighborhood crying.
"Why does that stuff happen?" Yahiko asked as they walked back from a funeral held for a neighbor's son. "I don't think it should be allowed! Why don't the grownups fix it?"
Madara had underestimated her. She didn't often leave the village on missions, she hadn't captured any jinchuuriki, and she was content to stay in Pain's shadow most of the time. So he assumed that she was weak. He had forgotten that no one could have survived the civil war in Amegakure if they were weak. Perhaps, she thought, he had also forgotten where true strength came from.
They had only been ten years old when it happened. The old woman who lived across the street had been injured, and their parents had given them meals to take to her. She had thanked them profusely-and then screamed as a gigantic blast rocked the street. Running out of the old woman's house, they saw a fireball rising from the area of the street where their homes were.
"Kaa-san! Tou-san!" Yahiko started running back to his house, but one of the old woman's neighbors grabbed him and pulled him back.
"You can't go over there, kid."
"But my family! And..." He looked over at Konan, who was staring in shock at the rubble where her and Yahiko's homes had once been.
Later, they had found out that both of their families had been killed in the explosion. Their part of Amegakure had been relatively peaceful up until that point, but now it, too, was being affected by the fighting, and it became more dangerous by the day. Many of the other families left, and people had enough trouble providing for themselves without having two extra children to look after. She and Yahiko had been left to fend for themselves.
She didn't think that she would have been able to make it through those times without Yahiko. The loss of her parents, her sisters, her home, threatened to crush her. They were often cold and hungry and exhausted. But she knew that Yahiko would always be there. Each morning when she woke up, whether it was in the shelter of an abandoned house or in an alley, he would be curled up a few feet away. Each day, as they tried to find something to eat and a place where they could get out of the never-ending rain, he would be right beside her. Whenever the pain became too much, and she could do nothing but hide her face in her hands and cry, she would feel his arm around her shoulder, warm and reassuring. Yahiko was the one constant in a world that had suddenly become chaotic and unstable, and it was his presence that gave her the strength to go on.
Madara sought the power of the Rinnegan for selfish reasons. He felt betrayed by his clan, by his village, and by a world that was leaving him behind. So he sought to prove his power, and to dominate the world with a genjutsu that would put every man, woman, and child on earth under his sway. He didn't understand that the purpose of those eyes was not to serve oneself, but to serve others.
Yahiko had said once that he wanted to become like a god, so that he could end the fighting that plagued the world once and for all. Madara also pursued a source of power that would make him akin to a god, but he failed to recognize the responsibility that came with that title. Konan had always been keenly aware of the faith that the people of Amegakure placed in her and in Pain. The desire not to let down the people who believed in them was one of the reasons she had resolved to face Madara, and was willing to give her life to bring him down.
Konan wakes up to the sound of frantic pounding on her door. "Konan-taichou! Konan-taichou!" The voice beyond the door is muffled, but clearly upset.
Konan groans and heaves herself out of bed. Whatever's happening, she doesn't want to deal with it. It hasn't yet been twenty-four hours since Yahiko died (was killed by Nagato, part of her mind insists on reminding her, to save you) and all she wants to do is bury her face in her pillow and sleep. Maybe if she does that, she'll wake up tomorrow and find out that it was all just a nightmare.
Sure, and maybe pigs will fly.
Nevertheless, it doesn't sound like the person on the other side of the door is going away anytime soon, so she stumbles across the room and wrenches it open. Her hair is disheveled, her flower is missing, and her clothes are wrinkled, but she doesn't care.
The terrified face of a jounin with blond hair and mustache looks back at her. "Konan-taichou!" he yells, as if she isn't standing right in front of him. "Yahiko-taichou's body is gone! I was standing guard outside the door to the morgue, like we always do so Hanzou's people can't steal the Advanced Bloodline corpses before they're cremated, and suddenly my vision went black. It wasn't a power outage, it was as if my eyes just couldn't perceive the light anymore. Like I'd gone blind or something. I thought it was a genjutsu, so I tried to dispel it, but it took a few tries-whoever did it must be strong. By the time I succeeded, the body had disappeared."
Konan shoves past him and runs down the long hallway, past other shinobi from Nagato's faction going about their business. "Where's Nagato?" she calls over her shoulder at the jounin, who's hurrying along behind her.
"We don't know, no one can find him either!"
Panic grips her. Is this some new move by Hanzou? Has he kidnapped Nagato and taken Yahiko's body? She grits her teeth in anger. Hanzou has already taken Yahiko away from her; she refuses to let him have Nagato too.
She hurtles around a corner, slams open the front door of the building where they're currently headquartered, and careens down the street. This sector of the city is controlled by Nagato's faction, patrolled by shinobi loyal to their cause. She hears the pounding of footsteps behind her, and knows that the jounin who woke her is following. She hears him bark orders to some of the ninja they pass, who fall into step with him.
Outside the morgue, she sees a small crowd gathered around the door. She steps inside, and sees the tables organized in neat rows, a body on each. There's a tag on each table with a seal inscribed on it in elegant calligraphy, preserving the bodies until funeral rites can be performed. Under ordinary circumstances, the youth of some of the bodies would make her feel a pang of sorrow, but there's only one she cares for now. In the exact center of the room is an empty table, the table on which Nagato had laid Yahiko's body early that morning.
After examining the room and failing to find anything that might provide useful information, Konan stalks back outside, fists clenched. "Dammit! It's bad enough that Hanzou got Yahiko killed, to take his body too-" Angry murmurs from the shinobi around her testify to their agreement.
"W-What should we do?" a genin asks in a quiet voice.
"And where's Nagato-taichou?" asks a red-haired kunoichi standing nearby.
The blond jounin shrugs and says that he doesn't know, provoking a flurry of activity among the group of ninja. They start planning out search parties, because Hanzou must have something to do with this, and they can't let him get away with it, and what does Konan-taichou think they should do?
A hundred different thoughts are whirling around in her head, but with an effort, she focuses on the task at hand. She's just opening her mouth to give an order when a familiar voice calls out, "What's all the fuss about?"
Everyone turns toward the side street where the voice is coming from, and a figure steps forward into the light. Upon seeing him, everyone stops dead in their tracks.
That's what it looks like at first, but then she sees the piercings that line his nose, his earlobes, and his lower lip.
And the Rinnegan in his eyes.
"I guess I took you too lightly," Madara admitted, prompting Konan to give him a look of contempt. Had he expected her to be helpless without Nagato and Yahiko? Had he thought that she would simply give up without them? Had he thought that she lacked the resolve to put her life on the line, or to take his life? Had he expected her to hesitate at the last crucial moment?
What kind of kunoichi would she be if she did that?
He should have known better.
Konan flapped her paper wings, bobbing up and down slightly in the air currents above the village. Pain hovered beside her, gazing down at Hanzou's stronghold below them. Hanzou himself was dead, his forces were routed, but Pain was determined to leave nothing of his organization behind. There would be no conspiracy of Hanzou's loyalists working in the shadows to destabilize the new government of Amegakure. There would be no insurgency, no insurrection. Hanzou's faction was to be completely erased from existence.
He glanced over at her. "Should I do this?" he asked quietly, and for the first time in a long time, his voice was that of the small boy to whom she'd given a loaf of bread so many years ago.
From this vantage point, Konan could see clear across the city, and now she looked down to the part controlled by their own followers. She saw a group of ninja using suiton jutsu on a house that had been firebombed, while a woman screamed that her husband was still inside. She saw a child huddled in a doorway, curled up with too-thin arms wrapped around his knees in an effort to keep warm. She saw two shinobi trying desperately to save a kunoichi whose left arm had been sliced off halfway between wrist and elbow.
This has to end.
She looked back at Pain and nodded.
He raised his arms. "So be it, then. Chou Shinra Tensei!"
It was clear that Madara couldn't fathom why Konan was so determined to fight him. She supposed that shouldn't come as a surprise, not from this man who saw no difference between real peace and peace enforced by an illusion. The idea that a person could keep something precious in her heart, something that would survive all hardship and pain, would be utterly foreign to him.
She could barely see the red gleam of Madara's eye within his mask, but she knew there was a question there: Why? Why is their dream so important to you?
There was a simple answer to Madara's question...but she didn't expect him to understand that, either.
"You loved him, didn't you?" Pain's voice is so quiet that she can barely hear it.
Konan doesn't respond, and Pain turns away.
"It should have been me," he says. "I should have died instead of him."
"Don't say that!" she admonishes him, but he only shakes his head.
"It's true. I've...I've only ever wanted to protect you. I wanted you to be happy. But I let him die. You lost him because of me."
"No!" Konan shakes her head furiously, and grabs Pain's shoulders, which are really Nagato's. Except that they're also Yahiko's shoulders, and the fluffy orange hair is Yahiko's too, but the gray, ringed eyes are Nagato's and it's too hard to figure out where one of them ends and the other begins. "I would have been just as sad if you died, Nagato. I..." She swallows hard. She has never said this out loud, but she's thinking now that it was a mistake not to. Yahiko will never know how she feels, now, and the future is always uncertain. She is not going to miss her chance to tell Nagato too. "I loved both of you. I always have."
Pain opens his mouth and closes it again without saying anything, clearly shocked. She stares into his eyes and asks herself again who this truly is.
But if what she's just said is true, does it really matter?
Very slowly, she leans in and softly brushes her lips against Nagato's...Yahiko's...Pain's.
Yahiko and Nagato's dream was the bridge to peace. But a bridge could not simply be suspended in midair: it needed a pillar to support it, and that pillar must be strong and unyielding. Nagato and Yahiko had supported her for so long, and now it was her turn to support them. And the source of the strength she needed to do that was something Madara could never match, because it was something he'd forgotten decades ago. It was the one thing that even the constant rain of sorrow and loss that Amegakure had been subjected to couldn't drown.
Behind the mask, Madara's one eye widened as he saw shapes rising up from the depths of the inland sea over which Amegakure was built. They gathered together in two parallel barriers, which slid apart from each other, pushing the seawater before them. It can't be, he thought to himself. There's so much...it just can't be...
But it was. Thousands upon thousands of sheets of paper, made impervious to the water by chakra, were forming walls that held back the sea. Between them was a trench over a hundred feet deep. At the bottom, the muddy sea floor was laid bare to the sun for the first time in aeons. The paper pushed back further, forcing the sea level higher and higher, until it towered over both of them.
Nagato and Yahiko had both died for the sake of a dream. Konan would not-Konan could not-allow that dream to be an empty one. She loved them too much for that.
She surged her chakra through the massive walls of paper, and they lifted up and away.
And the waves came crashing down.
A/N: Inspired by the awesomeness that is Konan in Chapter 509.
The "taichou" honorific that's used in one of the flashbacks means "captain." The quotation at the beginning is from a book of the Bible that's essentially a love poem.
Thanks for reading!