Hey guys, new chapter up. I hope you enjoy. I'm sorry to say that the story has taken a turn that I didn't see coming and for that I'm sorry. I blame Kishimoto for revealing that the masked man was actually Obito which didn't really fit my ending at all. I knew I could continue the way I had planned but I'd probably get comments in perpetuity telling me that the masked man was Obito, so meh... Review is you can; it's like crack to me.

The Man behind the Mask

Uchiha Obito aka Tobi aka Madara and behind the scenes leader of the Akatsuki was not a man who was easily surprised. He had learned to expect the worst in humanity and was seldom disappointed. As the real Madara had taught him, life was suffering and pain; watching your comrades die while you continued to exist. War was the inevitable outcome of human conflict and the losses caused by it led to more destruction and more death. Even love, love of family, comrades and home, led to conflict and more death. The world was too flawed to be fixed by anything other than the complete annihilation of human will.

It was perhaps through this understanding of human nature that he was able to comprehend and manipulate others as easily as a player moved a shogi tile. Even those with superior intelligence, like Itachi, had fallen victim to the blindness caused by love and attachments. It was therefore a great surprise to him that he himself could have been so masterfully manipulated. Of all his pawns, Pein had been one of the most easily motivated. The loss of his best friend had made him see the futility of striving for peace through aggression; as the nations had done for so long. He was therefore the last person that Obito would have expected to turn his back on their mission.

With an almost childish shrug, he pushed the thought away. It didn't matter. In the end, the Moon's Eye plan would be successful and Pein's will, his very soul would be ground into dust. Clenching his hands he stood up fully against the trunk of the tree. He'd vanished briefly into the other dimension and listened as Konoha's forces scattered in various directions scurrying like mice after one enemy or the other. He watched as the girl and her companion were left alone but for the weak pink haired whelp. When she too went haring off after the fool Sasuke, Obito considered it a stroke of good luck in an otherwise unpredictable day.

He shadowed the two of them till they were well within the wooded area that bordered the Forest of Death. The boy was tired, his left foot dragging slightly as he made his way through the underbrush. This was almost too easy. With a leap he inserted himself in their path. The boy was slow to react and in a moment he stood twitching under one of Obito's most devious genjutsu. He really didn't want to hurt the boy but it was better for the both of them if he didn't struggle. It would only serve to damage them before he or Madara could get any use out of them.


At some point I must have dozed off because I awoke as Madara reached to take me from Sam. My eyes shot open and I lashed out managing to knock myself out of Sam's relaxed grip and away from the pestilential masked man. Having successfully "gotten away" I found myself struggling to get to my feet.

Madara stood with an attitude of stillness that still managed to seem surprised.

"It's amazing that you can move after all the power that passed through you."

Gathering my legs under me I forced myself to my feet.

"Sam?" I said keeping my eye on Madara's feet as I tried to move closer to my friend without getting nearer to the masked psychopath "Sam, are you okay? Say something …"

With a strangled noise he hunched over on himself as though he had been punched in the stomach. As I watched, he shuddered before falling limply to the forest floor.

"Sam!" I yelled and threw myself at him. My limbs shook with the effort but I managed to roll him unto his back. "Sam? Sam!"

Throwing caution (and sanity)to the wind, I turned to face Madara. "What the hell have you done to him?!"

His lone eye gazed at me impassively and the genjutsu I had expected didn't come.

"He's experiencing the worst day of his life; something to do with killing his grandfather, I think."

"What?! Take it off of him! Take the damn genjutsu off of him right now!" I yelled

"No. Well, not unless you start doing what I tell you to do."

"The damn barrier is already down. What the hell do you want now?"

He seemed taking aback by my sudden suicidal hostility. I could feel the vicious smile in his words. "Feeling brave are we?"

I clenched my fists in Sam's jacket. "Not brave just tired; tired of all of this. I'm tired of being attacked, I'm tired of being kidnapped, I'm tired of being threatened and I'm goddamned tired of calling you Tobi, Madara and whoever the fuck you are! Who are you anyway?" I asked hoarsely "I know you're not Madara. Are you one of the Zetsu clones? Are you the Sage of the Seven paths? Are you Obito? You know what? I don't even care anymore! I just want to close my eyes and wake up back home; where you don't exist!"

As he still stood staring at me, I felt his mood darken. He seemed to have been lost any sense of humour he might have had by listening to me ramble. I looked down at Sam whose skin was beaded with sweat. His eyes flickered rapidly behind closed lids and as I watched, a tear slipped from the corner of his left eye to trickle down his chin.

I looked up at Madara and struggled to my feet again. I was exhausted and cornered and I couldn't do a thing about that but maybe I could do something to help Sam.

I took a deep breath "I'm sorry, I'll do what you say, just promise me that you'll take the genjutsu off of Sam and leave him in Konoha."

"And why would I do that? I have both of you right where I want you."

He had me there. As far as I knew, we were alone and no one looking for us. He had us at his mercy and he knew it; he could capture us, kill us…anything. But he hadn't, why? He was hurting Sam but he hadn't put me under a genjutsu or restrained me in any way. If he had wanted us dead, we would've been dead before either of us even knew he was near us. Clearly he needed us for something and he needed us alive and … relatively unharmed. But what and why not just put me under a genjutsu too? Did it have anything to do with my ability to absorb chakra? He says that's not what I can really do or at least that my ability was way more powerful *read Mary Sue* than even Konoha knew about. I shook my head as I tried to clear the cobwebs out.

"Why haven't you just knocked me out and carted me back to wherever the hell you want to take me? Why not just put me under a genjutsu or something? Why are you even asking me to co-operate when you can pretty much make me do what you want?" I asked, genuinely curious as the answer

He tilted his head to the side as though thinking and after a moment offered me his hand. "Come with me and I'll tell you."

I glanced down at Sam who was still and pale enough to be dead. The only thing that reassured me that it wasn't too late was the rise and fall of his chest.

"I'll come with you but you have to take the genjutsu off of Sam and promise to leave him in Konoha. You say no to that and I promise I will fight you every step of the way and remember all I need is an inch of skin to take you down. If you let Sam go I'll… I'll do whatever you say without complaint and I won't try to escape. I'll be honest, too. I give you my word on that."

"Your word? Is that worth something?"

I scowled at him and flicked a glance at Sam. "It does to me because if I go back on my promise you'll come back to Konoha and hurt Sam."

He giggled at me and with a strange little jump, extended his hand. "Oookaaayy Erica-chan! You have a deal!"

I looked away for a moment taking in Sam's still form and the mass of trees blocking my view of Konoha. With a deep breath and a sigh, I reached out and clasped Tobi's gloved hand. With a swift tug, he pulled me closer and the world began to melt around us.