TH: As promised, the mini-sequel. This will be my last installment in the 'Dream' Universe I've created (Perchance to Dream; Ravel, Unravel; Shades; Horizons). Hopefully it takes care of some of the lingering problems people might have been wondering about.
For 'Horizons'... it will be treated much the same as 'Ravel, Unravel' was. Five flash-fic chapters. I'll post a new one every day, starting today.
Please, please, please review! I really love hearing from you guys!
Thanks to MakalaMea for betaing!
Short days ago, two armies passed under the tall trees for which Konohagakure no Sato was named. One was led by a war hawk as ambitious as he was militant: Shimura Danzo. His army was composed of his personal force called Root, and their supporters. They marched to wage war on a group called Genshi, who were survivors of the old Konoha and followers of the elected Godaime Hokage, Senju Tsunade. Genshi was a thorn in Danzo's side because they were actively working to undermine his position of power, and because they were proof against his many lies, not the least of which were that the most notable of Genshi's members were dead and that Tsunade had refused the Hokage's hat. Danzo took his army to eliminate the threat that Genshi posed.
The second army's battle started even before it left the gates of Konoha. Composed of all the ninja left in the Village who still possessed what was called the Will of Fire, this second army was a dissident army. An army opposing Danzo's rule and Danzo's vision of what Konoha should be. Led by the Heads of the loyal Clans, this army first waged war on the small Root force Danzo had set to keep order in the Village. Those who surrendered were imprisoned, those who did not were killed. And those ninja who were loyal to Konoha's Will of Fire took control once more of their Village. Their war began with a victory, but it was as yet unclear how it would end.
The second army marched out of Konoha the same day Danzo's did, and took the same path. Their objective was to aid their brethren in Genshi to defeat Danzo's Root, thus regaining their Konoha, the true Konoha.
But with two armies fielded, and another fraction of its fighting force either imprisoned or dead, Konoha was left with only a skeleton crew for defense. The civilians were still there, surely, but nearly all of the able-bodied ninja were out-of-Village, engaged in war.
Nearly all. Some Chuunin and Jounin remained, ostensibly to guard Konoha against any opportunists seeking to destroy or lay claim on the all-but-deserted Village. And, of course, the Genin were there, having been deemed too young or inexperienced to be part of the marching army. But the Genin were also too young and too inexperienced to be out on B-ranked missions like patrol duty.
:To be fair,: Umino Iruka interrupted his own reverie, :I am an Academy Instructor and do not accept missions as an active ninja, and so therefore should not be out on patrol duty either.:
And yet, here he was, leaping through the treetops outside of the Village's walls, checking their boundaries and the patrol area. And there Tokishiki Moegi and Uzuki Udon were, right behind him as his Genin Teammates on this patrol. He was hyper-aware of their presence, tense and worried. Not only because they could very well be attacked out here, but also because he wondered exactly which army would be marching back to Konoha, and what would happen if it wasn't Genshi.
He suppressed a shudder at the thought, and turned his attention back to his surroundings.
It was a beautiful day, ironically enough. The sun was bright and there was a gentle breeze blowing, rustling the leaves. The soft susurration was the only disturbance in the otherwise quiet forest.
Iruka froze and threw up a hand, halting Moegi and Udon in their tracks. He might not usually go on missions, but Iruka wasn't an idiot, and had never let his skills get rusty. The forest was usually filled with trilling birdsong. If it was quiet, that meant there was something out there to silence the birds.
Iruka's hand drifted to his kunai pouch, and he closed his fingers over the handle of one weapon, the cool weight a comfort in his grip. He flicked a hand signal at his two Genin companions, and they obediently slid backwards into obscuring leaves. Iruka remained out in the open, and readied himself to challenge the owner of the chakra signature he could sense approaching.
He didn't have to wait long. A few seconds after Moegi and Udon had hidden themselves, a slim, black-clad figure lit upon a branch not too far away. Close enough for Iruka to see that she was female, and wore a cowl, full mask, and a Konoha hitai-ate.
:Friend or foe?: he wondered uneasily, but strictly maintained his outward façade of confidence. The hand holding the kunai lifted into a ready position.
"Halt!" he said definitively. "Identify yourself!"
The kunoichi had frozen as well, her mask tilted in his direction. Slowly, she straightened from her coiled stance, and raised her hands, palms out, fingers spread to show she was unarmed.
That wasn't saying much, for a ninja. Iruka kept his kunai ready. The kunoichi used slow, deliberate motions so as not to alarm him, and reached for her cowl and mask.
Iruka nearly fumbled his kunai in surprise, but his training held and he remained steady as wide green eyes and vibrant pink hair was revealed. He never forgot a student.
There was a smile growing on the young woman's face.
"Iruka-sensei!" she exclaimed, "Naruto will be so glad to see you!"
The blond's name was like an electric jolt to his brain. Naruto and Sakura were two of the half-dozen or so that Danzo had claimed died long ago but who were, in fact, part of the nucleus of Genshi. If they were here, it meant…
It meant that Genshi was here. That Genshi had won.
Iruka did drop his kunai, this time.