A/N: Ohmygoshi! Remember me? Remember this story? Flipped and a coin and...THIS IS THE NEXT ONE TO BE UPDATED! We're taking a break from all those silly little flashbacks for this chappy, to remind ya'll who its about. I know you all have very many questions but please, hold them until the end of the chapter. I've worked supremely hard on this one, and will gladly answer any and all of your questions, provided they are coherent and sensible and so and so forth. Ah, who am I kidding?! Ask away!
And, of course, enjoy!
"I've got a bad feeling about this...
Even as Yugito Nii weaved a cautionary tale as to how she and the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki had come to be allies, said jinchuuriki was writhing in agony. Not physically of course. They would have noticed his pain, attempted to come to his aid. No, the agony he endured was not of the body, but of the mind. Of the spirit. Of the heart; an eternal hell of white hot agony that seemed to stretch on unto eternity. Three sources of chakra warred within him: amongst them the traditional white-blue that all shinobi possessed and the scintilating scarlet shroud of his tenant, trickling through the seal left behind by the Yondaime's will.
A third, violent violet chakra warred against both, struggling to assert itself over them. Were one to sense it, were one to experience it with the five senses, they would've said thus: it reeked of madness. This chakra, it held a will of its own, a will of another; a raging, mindless bloodlust nearly equal to that of the biju. It was a tainted, corrupted power, and it had no business being in his body. But it was,,within him, and his very being strove with all his strength to drive it out. And in its haste to expunge the tainted chakra, his mind was left to its own devices. To madness.
When Namikazer Naruto dared open his eyes, it was bright.
"Where am I?"
Much, much too bright to be considered natural.
He recognized this place. The white-gold warmth suffused him; his flesh gloried in the light. He moved through the tunnel with sure and easy steps. Eagerness without hurry. Gentle fingers traced his eyes. Someone shrieked. Regrets. Sorrow. Darkness. Cold. He blinked away the nightmare. Shivered. Let the white-gold hold him again and wash it all away. A myriad of otherwordly senses trickled in and out of the eerie white and cascaded over the stones.
He was having...a vision?
"Now we begin."
With cruel and terrifying swiftness, the nightmare returned and this time, it brought the voices.
"Grab his arms, Hidan. I'll take the legs."
"Oi! Kakuzu! Shut up! It's not my fault if you drop him!"
There was a great and terrible fear as whomever it was was stared through darkness. Where are they? Where am I? Why is it so dark? Why can't I see them? Why can't I see? I CAN'T SEE! It took Naruto only an instant to realize what had happened as he felt the flicker of uncertainty boiling into abject terror within the the man's chest. He was male, for this voice was surely masculine, and he could feel and experience the man's pain as he was rudely dragged across a roughly hewn floor.
Something terrible was about to happen.
They're going to kill me! Bile rose from the trench that was his throat and Naruto smothered it with an acid of his own as the man dissolved into mindless babbling. Damnit! Damnit all to hell! I don't want to die! I don't wanna die! Someone! Anyone! Please! NO! Oh Kami! No! Not like this! Not because of this...thing! I never wanted this power! I never wanted this monster inside me! Naruto didn't trust his voice at that moment as he felt his heart shrivel up and blow away with the wind.
This monster inside me?
'Shit.' He didn't have time to think about that now and if he stopped to think then he'd never move again. 'Shit shit shit shit...
For a moment the man rallied against the fear. A cold and unsettling numbness settled over him, and indirectly, the same shroud draped itself upon Uzumaki Naruto. In this brief instant the man was calm, relaxed, one could even say serene. There was no fear to be had, only a dreadful void of silence within the agony. Sielnce. Listening intently to the voices and murmurs around him. Naruto found himself straining to pick up any word as well, any snippet of conversation that might reveal the man's location.
"Who the hell are you?"
Naruto couldn't help it. He recoiled. Somehow the watched had become aware of the watcher, and now they reached out to him. But he couldn't bear the emotions conveyed by this connection. Hope, sudden and desperate hope, exuded from the man's ever pore as Naruto's mind created a rough composite sketch of the speaker. The man was heavily armored, and bore a hitiate, one that looked a great deal like Iwagakure's, so Kyuubi's infinite knowledge supplied and claimed.
"Are you someone like me?"
"How does it feel?" Bitter venom filtered into the voice of his invisible guide."Knowing you can do nothing? Knowing that this man is about to die? Knowing you have to watch? If you'd listened to me, you wouldn't have to see any of this. I warned you, kit. I told you not to touch anything in this realm. But if you refuse to listen then you'll have to watch. Look and see, foolish human. This is what your ignorance costs you. Watch. Watch and weep as one of your kin and my bretheren die and you are forced to bear witness."
"You can and you shall." Kyuubi's prescence withdrew from his mind. "I will not tolerate weakness. Not from anyone. Certainly not from you."
Naruto wanted it to stop. He wanted it to end. Mercilessly, the scenario played out before him. Mercilessly, his senses remained. Mercilessly, he was drawn back and forced to bear witness. Dread came coiling around him like a python, constricting his throat and chest; rendering him mute before the end of a stranger that he didn't know, and yet this man knew him. He gagged as the scene sharpened, focused, and narrowed. Revealing a dimly lit cavern housing something huge and grotesque and very, very large. A statue. A perverse and distorted humanoid statue with as many eyes as fingers. Its hands were stretched outward, palms upturned, and for each finger, a shadowy figure had a place to stand, a place to watch as the man was sentenced.
One of them came forward and placed a hand upon the man's chest.
"It is time to seal the Fifth Tail."The deep and emotionless baritone voice resonated throught the shadows. "Let us begin." Those who stood around the man; those who patiently awaited upon the tips of the statue's fingers, each raised a hand in a seal. Naruto was forced to look on in horror as each of the fingers lit, one by one, in a ghastly ghoulish green glow. The holograms stood around the man atop the statue's fingers and suddenly, the bit came unblocked from the statue's mouth.
"Fūinjutsu: Genryū Kyū Fūjin!" (Sealing Technique: Illusionary Dragon Nine Consuming Seals!)
Strange kanji appeared upon the fingernails of the statuette hands. Numbering nine altogether, a horde of dragon-like effigies poured from the statue's mouth, surrounding the captured host. Naruto watched them circle, circle, always circling, walling off any chance of escape he might've had. Suddenly with a terrible and terrifying intensity, they reared back. There was no rush and
Paper thin, the stranger's defenses shattered upon contact with the draconic spirits. To Naruto's dismay, he began to blubber and bawl all over again. Writhing, gagging and choking, a liquidic and pale substance drained out of his mouth and into the statue, leaking from the man's mouth, nose, and even his eyes. Naruto wanted to retch, but his stomach crumpled on itself and left his throat barren.
"W-What the hell is this feeling...Oh no. NO! NOOO! I won't! I won't die like...I won't allow myself to...I can't...I...I c-caaaaaaaannnnnnrrraaagh!" Naruto tried to sever his connection with the man. He tried to turn away from the flood of his memories, to ignore his eyes as the light flared into a supernova of blinding brilliance. He could not. He couldn't bring himsef to turn a blind eye to the atrocity, no matter how it might hurt him to not avert his eyes in those crucial last moments of life.
And then everything was gone and the horror was ended.
Naruto stared ahead, counting the specks of light. No matter how many times he counted, there were only seven. Seven. Pain, the raw and terrifying agony of a death not his own but that of another, stung and stabbed at his eyes as he gazed into the void, reeling from that brief blaze of furious and wild distress.
Panic traveled across the invisible wavelength that connected him to the remaining lights. He was sure that the remaining seven experienced similair feelings of terror and despair, but he would never know as he watched them wink out as well. One, by one, by one, they simply vanished, slipping through his fingertips with all he held dear. And then there was only one. A lonely lump of crimson light that had devoured all the others, and even as he observed it, that shape was swelling, changing, transforming into a creature so grotesque, so hideous...
With every fiber of his being, Naruto pushed himself against the light. With a wordless and inhuman cry, the tendrils of awareness severed from his conciousness. Too much. It was too cruel, to give a man hope and then wrest it away, even if it had been unintended. But the damage was done. The seed he had planted, the seed that'd blossomed into a mighty oak, began do decay. Roots crumbled and fruit became rotten as bark turned to ash, leaving only a hopeless depravity in its wake.
"Calm down, Naruto."
A hand laid itself upon his shoulder. Something was pulling him aside, away. He felt twisted, and slowly a mountain came into focus- not the mountain, for the mountain itself remained indistinct, it seemed full of people intensely curious to greet him but he couldn't make them out. All that was truly in focus as the scene changed, focused, narrowed, was himself. Namikaze Naruto, fully grown and in the prime of adulthood and standing before behomoth come straight from his nightmares.
This Naruto had seven swords strapped to his back, one of which, was Kubikiri Houcho. He faced this huge and otherworldly creature, weapon in hand.
Naruto felt something hot and stinging lance through his chest and again the scene changed. He was standing below the beast now, looking on with horror and disgust as it descended to the earth to face him, to strike him down. It was massive, this creature, and blacker than hell itself. It loomed over him, ten tails of perverse and distorted chakra swaying behind its mighty frame and haunches.
Wait a free-frickin' minute.
There were only nine bijju!
How could this thing possibly have...
Hunched shoulders bent, stooped as it leaned further as its hulking frame would allow, and turned its eye upon him. Decaying jaws parted in a hideous roar, spraying a gust of phlegm and rechid wind into his face and the forest below. Naruto stood against this hurricane and was amazed that he hadn't been blown away. He felt a small part of him fall away and crumble into nothingness as he drew not a sword, but a staff -where the hell had that come from- and leveled it upon the creature.
"It's over, Jūbi." Naruto's mouth moved against his will and his body assumed a strange stance. "Today, I remove your taint from this world!" His body moved as though he were on the invisible strings of a pupetteer and Naruto saw within his peripheals the drawing of a slim looking katana from a sheathe he couldn't quite see. This monstrosity known now as the Ten Tailed Beast snarled in defiance and reached for him, no- it reached for the Rikudo Senin- and the sage raised his staff/sword and chanted something unintelligible, his words lost in the howling of the storm.
"This is a dream baka yarou." Naruto flushed as the Kyuubi mentally berated him. "What, did you really think this was happening in reality? What you saw before, the death of Five Tailed Beast, that was real enough, but this, THIS happened long, long ago, long before you or I ever existed."
"So then this is...
Frigid with reality Naruto realized the truth of what he was witnessing. However, it did little to assauge his fear as the foul creature bellowed and lashed out. A massive hand shot toward him, filling all of his vision with an incredible speed. Yet even as the hand descended upon the sage, an incredible flare of the most intense light burst from the staff and struck the beast. Naruto would have smiled if his dream body had allowed it. Struck by the seal, the Jūbi gave a keening howl as its body violently turned inward and turned to chakra, that chakra being drawn into the body of the Six Path Sage and bound there for what would be the remainder of his long-lived life.
Impossibly, the dream changed yet again.
"If there is peace in this world...you'll be the one to find it, Uzumaki Naruto."
Naruto felt the pseudo-him/Six Path Sage smile, and the world inverted violently. Now it was Naruto staring out at the Rikudo Senin, and the Six Path Sage smiling back. He stood there standing placidly the midst of the chaos that the Ten Tailed Beast had wrought. He crooked a finger at Naruto, and the genin hadn't the strength to refuse. He hurried up the cliffside, heedless of how outlandishly dumb he looked when he scuffed a hand on a rock and a knee on some gravel.
Mild laughter greeted his arrival at the summit.
"I believe your generation has a saying." A small shiver fled his spine as he beheld the "God of all Shinobi" in all his magnificent splendor. "Slow and steady wins the race, was it?" Naruto couldn't bring himself to answer...himself. He was looking at himself. Granted, this was an older much, much wiser version of himself, but the resemblance could not be denied. Every aspect of him, from the Rinnegan in his eyes to the curtain of crimson shading that crooked smile within unbelievably long hair, right down to the whisker marks that rippled each cheek, everything screamed the truth.
This was Naruto.
"Wouldn't you agree, Naruto-kun?" The Rikudo Senin gesticulated grandly, and Naruto stared into a mirror as it appeared from nothingness. He froze. They looked almost exactly the same. But for this obvious difference in height ant attire, he'd look exactly like the Sage of the Six Paths. But that could only mean one thing. Scarce had he completed the thought than a hand settled upon his shoulder. Naruto whirled, and found a gaze brimming with all the affection of one generation giving to the next.
Suffocating and intense, a strange sensation welled at his eyes and threatened to spill the tears down his cheeks. This was as close to a family gathering as he could possibly get, but only tears came when he tried to find the words to speak. The Six Path Sage must have noticed this, for he banished his weapons and smiled a fatherly smile. It was the kind of smile Naruto never wore because, well, he wasn't a father and quite frankly he wasn't sure he ever wanted to be one.
It was really strange to see the elder Naruto smiling as such.
"So, aiming for world peace, are you?" Violet rimmed eyes quirked into an amused chortle as he flushed. "Maybe you'll be the one to surpass me in the prophecy after all." Naruto was taken aback by such a thing, all his composure stripped away in an instant. Him?Surpass the Rikudo Sennin? The man who had sealed the aggregate of all Biju, the man who had created the nine tailed fox, Shukaku, Nibi, and Nanabi with all the other chakra beasts?
"Ch-Chotto! Wait a second!" If he'd held supreme confidence in himself before, then he certainly wasn't showing any of it now. "How can you just go around saying stuff like that!" Naurto shook over his entire body and cursed himself for the carlessness of such an inquiry. "Y-You're kidding, right? How am I supposed to do something even you couldn't? You're the absolute best of the best to ever exist!" Ah crap, now he was crying because he'd too much time to think this through and in that time he'd realized peace was not only immensely difficult to achieve, but it was un-freaking-believably hard! Everyone could die, just like that and he'd be powerless to do anything about it!
"I almost lost everyone already!" Naruto scrubbed at his face furiously. "Sasuke...Hinata...Gaara... If I screw up...then...then...they'll die!"Naruto refused to do it, he refused to shed a tear because only the weakest of the weak allowed themselves to weep. "I can already feel this chakra...doing things to me! I'm not going to be me when I wake up! What don't you understand about that!" He kept his head downturned as he awaited a rebuttal, but the words just wouldn't stop.
"I...I can't help it! I care about them too much to do something like this. If I wake up, I'll be...someone else! I'll ruin everything!" But if he'd been expecting just that, a rebuke from his ancestor, then he was sorely dissapointed. A sound jingling against one another, the rings on his sleeves clinked together as the legendary founder of ninjutsu turned himself toward the drop that awaited them. Naruto followed his ancestor's gaze, and tried to clamp down on the tears before they could slip out and wash him away in a flood of misery.
"What do you think peace is?" Rikudo Sennin asked. "Naruto-kun?"
"Nani?" Naruto scrubbed at an eye with the back of a hand. The Sage waited patiently, gazing upon the charred landscape while he waited for his charge to get his bearings. And as always, Namikaze Naruto was quick to bounce back when given the means and a method by which to do so. Eventually he dried his tears. Two Rinnegan wielders, one living and another dead, a ghost from the past and a boy from the present, joined in together in silent contemplation as the dark clouds overhead began to break into afternoon sky.
"I...don't have an answer to that-
"Rubbish."The Six Path Sage ammended Naruto's whine with a stern swat to the head with his staff. "You know the answer as well as I and you're running from it. Fleeing, as my children did before you." He glowered for a moment longer before straightening out of the battle ready crouch he'd adopted. It was surprising revelation for the redhead. Naruto had tensed himself into a battle readiness, as though those rippling eyes and their spectre were a threat. Naruo felt disgust roiling up within his soul, threatening to strangle all his morals and wash his world away in a flood of self-loathing.
"Peace can be many things. "The sage murmurred. "Wouldn't you agree, given what you've seen?"
Naruto thought about that.
Gaara desperately wanted a family, to be acknowledged in his existence. Yugito wanted a mate that loved her as deeply as she loved him. Fu, the hardened teenager that had at first seemed to brutal, so blackened and bloodthirsty that Naruto had been convinced she was beyong saving, wanted nothing more than to be held, embraced, smiled upon, and received the love she had never ever known in the days of her childhood.
Sasuke wanted companions.
Hinata wanted unity.
Naruto wanted peace.
"Maybe that's true," Naruto mumbled as the first shaft of sunlight fell upon them. "But I don't have an answer yet." At this, the Rikudo Sennin arched an eyebrow. Almost immediately thereafter, Naruto whined as a hand tousled that curtain of crimson that was his hair. Still, he made no effort or complaint toward his great (man many times great) grandfather. It was a kind and gentle moment, caught somewhere in a time that was neither here nor there, and it could not last.
"After that meaningful speech, too." The sage feigned a mournful expression. "I had such high hopes for you, Naruto-kun. Actually," Naruto twisted to look up at the sage again, confusion evident in his expression. "It's rather easy to create peace. Maintaing proper peace, sustaining that harmony and serenity even after your death, that's where things become...troublesome." Naruto, having opened his mouth to protest, snapped it shut with an audible pop and clamped down on the laughter.
"Hehehe...You remind me of Shikamaru."
"He thinks EVERYTHING is troublesome." Naruto was snickering softly, the thought never even occuring to him that the Sage hadn't the foggiest idea to who Shikamaru Nara was. "He's a lazy bum and mendokusē is practically his catchphrase when he isn't slacking off or napping somehwere." Naruto finsihed his sentence with a restrained snicker. Surely it must've been contagious, because Sennin's laughter answered his own.
"Ah." Another laugh, and another gentle mussing of the hair. "Maybe I'll understand that someday."
"That's just it." Naruto mumbled, unaware of that brief brief flicker of surprise in those eyes. "What you said earlier, that is. I want them to understand." He fidgeted as Rinnegan locked upon him, those eyes so much wiser and infinitely more knowledgeable than his own. "Maybe if everyone understood one another we wouldn't have to live like this. If they really understood each other, if they saw this world through my eyes, if they could see the pain they needlessly inflict upon others, maybe then there wouldn't be anymore of all...
Naruto gestured wildly, at a loss for words.
"Just how do you intend to make your enemies understand you, let alone one another, Naruto-kun?"
"I won't make them do anything!" Naruto's protest was unusually fierce. "I'll just...well...I'll try to see if I can understand them first! And if that doesn't work then I'll explain myself; I'll let them come to their own conclusions, and if their the wrong ones I'll still try to understand them! And if they don't want peace at all then I'll stop them from creating anymore pain in this world than we already have! But I won't... I will not force anyone to follow my dream against their will! I can't create peace if I force someone to do something that they hate! That's not peace! Not at all! That's...That's..."
"Well said." Naruto blinked as his ancestor stooped down to his level. "I think you've found your answer, Naruto-kun." Suddenly, Naruto realized that he could see through is ancestor. "Your eyes have become stronger for it, too."
"Eh?" Naruto blinked owlishly. "I don't understand." I thought you-
"Mattaku." The Rikudo Sennin sighed fastidously. "This is really irresponsible of me, "The God of Shinobi" to entrust my task to you. But with those eyes of yours, I feel as though I can finally move on and leave this world in your capable hands." Naruto was still shaking his head when the Six Path Sage removed his necklace. "Here. I bestow this upon you. The greatest of my treasures, the one that I have always kept at my side, even in death. It belongs to you now, Uzumaki Naruto."
Naruto choked aloud, a small and wordless sound of disbelief falling from his lips. No sooner had the jade jewels fallen around his neck than a stange and golden glow emanated from them. Wreathing across his flesh and wrapping him in a sheet of golden flame, the tongues of heat and fire even extended to his attire and damaged chakra coils. Repairing the damage the Kyuubi's chakra had dealt to his tenketsu points and unblocking the malformed coils to better synchronize with his new body.
No, that wasn't it at all. There was chakra. An insane amount of chakra surged out of Naruto, mixing with the Kyuubi's and filtering into the crimson. Strange. There wasn't any pain. Kyuubi's chakra had burned when he'd used it that first time on the bridge. Not anymore. Though the crimson energies left his features feral, instead of clawing at his skin and boiling into his blood, he welcomed them and turned the powers inward and away from his wild and chaotic desires; diverting them, channeling the power into his arms and legs, not a wildly indiscriminate burst of rage.
It felt like a second skin. Rippling over his body in a protective sheathe born entirely of crimson, a pale crimson. Not the furious dark stain that it had been moments before. Naruto blinked and the glow faded, taking with it his jinchuuriki cloak. Awed, Naruto jerked his gaze upward to thank the Rikudo Sennin. He couldn't believe his eyes. The Six Path Sage was fading. The dream was fading, and with it went the Rikudo Sennin, as he too, was a part of this strange dream-vision.
"Hmm." The sage was staring mutely at a transparent hand. "Seems my time is up."
"Don't eeeeh me, gaki." The sage smiled, and Naruto saw every bit of himself in that devil-may-care grin. "That's my name. If you keep calling me Rikudo Sennin-sama all the time then I'll feel even older than I already am!" They laughed, the both of them, but it was a sad and bitter chuckle for each. One of farewell and sadness.
The Six Path Sage removed the necklace from his neck and offered it to his ancestor. Naruto accepted the gift with fumbling hands, silently marvelling at it.
"I suppose I'll use my final moments to explain just what that is, then. It is Yasakani no Magatama (Necklace of jewels). This is the Spirit Item. You're the only one who can use it, Naruto-kun. I can't tell you what kind of power it holds. Only you can unlock it now. I've taken the liberty of syncrhonizing your chakra with the Kyuubi's, too. It should be easier for you to draw upon his chakra now." That gaze hardened. "But beware. The damage to your seal is inevitable. The more you rely on his chakra, the further it will deteriorate. Once it reaches a certain point you'll have to do something about it-
"I'll just kick his ass then," Naruto surprised the sage by jerking a hand forward, thumb upright from a fist. "Dattebayo!"
"Kick his ass then, huh?" The Six Path Sage, otherwise known as Arashi, chuckled morosely."I'll leave you to it then, oh great-great-great-great-GREAT grandsone of mine." Naruto blinked as his great great however many times great ancestor extended a hand, clenched into a fist. The gesture was as unmistakeable as it was memorable. Naruto grinned and bumped fists with the ghost, and was not at all surprise when he managed to connect.
"Use it well."
...and as he screamed, he jerked upright.
He felt pain; because he was still alive. Still whole. Still here. Relief flooded Naruto as he flopped back down, his head spinning. His body screaming. He welcomed the pain with open arms and waited for it to subside as the memories crashed down around his ears. Orochimaru. The mark on his neck. Slimy bastard.
"Looks like you survived." Kyuubi grunted. "This time."
'Good to see you, too, bastard.' Naruto suppressed a grimace as his world finally returned. Wincing at the effort it took, he propped himself up on his elbows, hoping, that his weakened limbs would last. Thankfully, they did. The world came back to him in a rush of epileptic agony; every inch of him ached, some in places he didn't even know he had. He saw the firelight saw the shadows lurking beyond, saw the figures gathered outside and nearly fell over on his ass. It hurt just to have his eyes open and oh kami his neck was killing him-
"You son of a bitch!"
His head whipped around at the voice. Snapped backward as a hand cracked across his face. Reeling from the force of the blow, the last Namikze opened his mouth to protest...
...and found his eyes locked with that of the last Uchiha.
"What the hell, Sasuke?!"
"You son of a bitch!" Black eyes narrowed wrathfully, tearfully "Don't you ever fucking do that to me again!"
Tears flowed unheeded down the Uchiha's face.
Naruto mouth fell openina small round O. Sasuke never cried. Ever. To see his supposed-teammate shed tears nowhere and now, for his sake, was a feat in-and-of itself. And was it just him...or did Sasuke's voice seem a tiny bit more pitched than before? Were was the usual timbre of his words? Strange...
"Do you have any idea how long you were out?"
The redhead blinked.
"A few hours, right?"
"More like a few days!"
"What?!" He pushed himself upright, alarming the Uchiha with his sudden proximity. "You mean-
Naruto never did get to finish that sentence as the the vines flung themselves open. A blur of caramel brown registered in his peripheals. A flicker of lime green and eyes of golden amber. This time, Naruto really did fall over. Crying out in surprise and pain, as Fu's flung herself around his neck and chest, the weight of her lithe body driving him back to the floor. Her eyes also gleamed hot with tears, though whether sorrowed or joyous he knew not. Her lips tasted of them too; salty and tangy, brimming with such ardor he was utterly taken aback by relief and sorrow. Full of joy.
"Bastard." She hissed between kisses breasts mashing up against his chest, supple form grinding into his groin. "You stupid, fucking bastard." Whiskered cheeks burned beneath her incessant affection, burnished by the pale light of the torches."Don't you ever fucking blank out on me like that you hear?" Getting cussed out never felt so damned good. "Now, you listen to me, and listen damn good." Her breath was warm on his ear, and hot on his face. "I'm the only one who's allowed to kill you. Got that?
He managed a nod, just as a strangled yelp reached his ear. He hazarded a glance toward the sound.
Hinata was staring at them with wide, overlarge eyes. Naruto couldn't help but gulp. Was that...anger lurking in those pale orbs? He'd the strongest suspicion that it was. Just as he'd never seen Sasuke cry, so too, had he never witnessed the true depth of the Hyuuga's anger. Until now. Wait. She wasn't actuallly...jealous was she?
"Yo." The blond raised a hand weakly, hoping against hope that her stare wouldn't remain thus. "Hinata-chan."
"Na-Naruto-kun?" At his words, she became utterly obvious of the taki-kunoichi sitting in his lap.
"Y-You're alright." The Hyuuga sputtered, relief welling up in her eyes. "You're...really...actually...
"Please don't cry, Hinata-chan!" Naruto pleaded. He'd seen more than his fair share of tears already. He was sick of everyone shedding tears over him. He just wanted everything to return to the way it was, and get this damned exam over with. No such luck. Seconds later, he found the Hyuuga nestled in his lap alongside Fu each kunoichi glaring bloody red daggers at one another, sparks flying between her eyes. Sasuke bristled, eyes narrowing to mere pinpricks of bloody obsidian as his own refusal to admit his secret still hounded him.
Everyone else just gawped.
"Well now," Yugito blinked as she pulled the curtain aside, leaving her tale unfinished. "I didn't think he'd wake up this soon." Samui edged in beside her, perplexion flickering throughout her face. Why did the boy have two girls in his lap? What had she missed? And why, oh why, did she find herself wanting to join them? Before she could further deliberate this strange sensation, another redhead barged into the room. Killer intent was suddenly everywhere, welling up from the four corners of the naturally erected shelter, filling its occupants with dread.
Sabaku no Gaara had deliberately kept himself distant from the other jinchuuriki. Avoided them, ignored the cries of his demon that demanded their slaughter. Until now. Now that the Namikaze had returned from what should very well have been his end, it was time to fufill the promise. And he wasn't about to allow anyone to impede his progress. Sand swirled out of the gourd at his back, and surrounded him, forcing those present to acknowledge his prescence of be caught up in the foul smelling granules of bloody grit.
He cared not for the pair of kunoichi in the boy's lap, nor the Uchiha nor the other genin in the room. He cared only for the one who had made the promise. The promise to fight. His sand lashed out at the others, eager for action, crushing them to the sides of the bough, forcing them out of the fight and away from his target. His prey.
"Gaara." The former blond blinked, as though just now recognizing him. "Now isn't the time-
"Namikaze." The redhead growled. "You promised me a fight if I offered you my assistance. I've fufilled my end of the bargain." Green eyes glinting with maddened blood lust, his unfolded his arms where they trembled at his sides in eerie anticipation. Now! The promised time was now! His demon was scraping at the door to his mind in earnest now, demanding action, demanding battle, demanding...
Even as Naruto moved to rise, so too, did the sand move to greet him.
A/N: IT LIIIIIIVES! Path of Peace Lives! And so does Naruto! But is the cursed seal gone? Or has its chakra merely been subsumed into his body? The thought of Naruto with another source of power in additionto the one he already has *shudder* that can't possibly bode well for the world. And, we see why Gaara agreed to work with Naruto. Bloodthirsty bastard just wanted a fight. And it seems he's about to get one. But enough about him! Isn't Fu just adorable? It seems Naruto toned down her violent tendencies quite a bit...except toward him. Wonder how the other girls are going to take this, we all know how Samui's reactiong, but what of Yugito? Things get heated next chapter, so...
...REVIEW, would you kindly?