Disclaimer: Shit not mine.
The north-bound wind told jounin Sakura Haruno many things. It told her she was in a mountain pass, for all knew that wind only blew east to west in the elemental nations. For the wind to blow south to north, she had to be in a pass. Either that... or she'd been transported off the map entirely.
But the valley or pass, was wide. So wide that it nearly seemed a plain. Even so, she knew that had to be true.
She wouldn't have much trouble believing that either considering who her captor was but assuming she hadn't been magicked to some faraway plane of existence, or wasn't under an elaborate genjutsu, she was most definitely in a mountain pass. Such places were the only way to find winds that travelled north at such a strong speeds.
The wind told her that it was spring. A full two months since her capture. Featherlocks and clofynes were blooming, and their scents wafted across her nose like tantalizing snippets of freedom that she was beginning to believe she might never again taste.
The sun shining above her had drifted across the sky and that was how she knew they were travelling north. It had trailed across the sky from east to west as it had always done, and from that she gleaned her position. Some of the farthest reaches of Earth Country unless she missed her guess. Flowers were blooming but only just. This place was one of the coldest on the land, and unless she missed her guess they were nearly off the edge of the map.
The wind also told her profoundly that her captor had killed once again. An entire city of villagers this time. People, cattle, chickens, pets, children and all. The wind was rife with the smell of blood. It was eerie, mingling with the flowers. Like sugar poured on an open grave.
Weariness tinged Sakura's legs and arms, and she longed for the warmth and comfort of home. But she wouldn't have it again. Probably never again. It saddened her, but this was her lot. She'd become a ninja. And she'd had wonderful years... At least she could die knowing that.
"You're lagging." Her captor commented. It wasn't a scornful tone. Not even a rebuke really. He hadn't tortured her. Even in his madness he seemed unwilling to harm her. Kidnapping her though? That, he appeared perfectly capable of.
"And?" She hissed hatefully. Her hands were no longer bound but they might as well have been. The seal upon her breast was her prison. Her chakra stolen, her strength reduced to that of a mere civilian, she had no choice but to follow the half crazed lunatic. Or he would tie her again, and then she would have to deal with being draggedacross the endless mountains of the north.
Oh how she longedto be in bed at home. To have the medical ward of the hospital waiting for her, and the bastard of a Hokage breathing down her neck... Even that was better than the ravings of this lunatic.
"Must we...?" The blonde-haired shinobi asked with a tired edge to his voice. "I have no care to do so." He said with an exasperated gesture towards the rope hanging from the back of his worn travel sack. "We need to keep pace."
Sakura glared at the blonde, hatred seething from her. "By the six paths, where the fuckare we going! Can you at least give me that?"
The man hesitated. Wind buffeted his neon orange cloak and his eyes shimmered, blue as they were in childhood but so distant that they belonged on only the face of grandfathers who have lived through too many dead sons.
"We are but a day away." The man replied. "I suppose it is safe to tell you. So long as you keep up."
The sun overhead made trace amounts of sweat glisten on Sakura's forehead. She was dirty, tired, and angry. She smelled of dirt and sweat. Even with all this the idea of finally knowing why her captor had gone through so much trouble, why they had spent months walking north, had her giddy with excitement.
"We are going to the edge." The man said cryptically.
Sakura blinked. The edge? The edge of what? Surely he couldn't mean...!
"Wh-why? What do you want there?" She asked, feeling suddenly nauseous.
The blonde man gave her a wide grin, that seemed too wide for a human's face. "Is the monkeylette afraid?" He asked, his head cocking unnaturally to the side, reminiscent of clowns she'd seen with her mother in festivals at a young age. The whisker marks on his cheeks and the knowledge that this depraved creature had once been her friend made the scene all the more disturbing.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't." Haruno replied soundly, feeling no shame in it. "Will you tell me?" She appeased.
Naruto Uzumaki, Missing Nin of the Leaf lost his crazed grin as fast as it had grown. But where he had been cryptic before, now he was a blunt as a bludgeon. "I plan on throwing you off it."
Sakura gulped, inwardly horrified. Outwardly, she did her level best to hide this terror.
"May I ask why?" She would've liked to tell herself that the wheedling sound that burbled between her lips at those words, minding her of a kicked Akamaru at the age of thirteen, were hunger-pangs. But they weren't.
The blond went contemplative. He places his chin in the palm of his hand. Then he jerked, staring at his own hand as if it were a noxious morsel of mold on an otherwise delicious pie. "Certainly, you may ask!" He said abruptly turning his attention back to her, then trailing off into a fit of giggling that made her skin crawl.
Sakura admitted to fear rather easily. Naruto Uzumaki had been her superior since the beginning. Since their days on team seven when her self-confidence had taken blow after blow from the superiority of the boys with her.
Since then, her fame had spread worldwide. Her bloodline was among the most powerful the world had ever known. Some said it even rivaled the legendary Sharingan. It did. She, not their current Hokage, had been the one to defeat Itachi Uchiha. She had laid waste to the powers of Orochimaru and his little village of experiments and sickness. While their Hokage was busy.
Rebuilding his clan... fucking bastard.
Okay. So in retrospect, Sasuke hadn't begun to resent her until after she'd killed Itachi. But that didn't give him any right to cheat on her. So she'd killed his brother? The damn avenger should've been happy.
No. Not so easy... Nothing could actually make sensewith the Uchiha.
But that said, he'd been the greatest Hokage since the Sandaime. He expanded the borders by the day it seemed. He knew what threats needed attention and sent the appropriate teams to dispatch them. The Will of Fire was alivein the people with the bastard at the head. Who was she to resent him for dipping his cock in a different woman every night...?
But the Hokage was stronger than her. He could've beaten Itachi. He'd just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. While she...? Well, it was all she could do to not gape at the mirror when she realized her face was clear of the wounds she remembered taking, clear as day. The Tsukiyomi had been... painful and eye opening. But she had defeated it.
Sasuke on the other hand…? He didn't rely on the Sharingan alone. Her childhood teammate. His star outshone hers and she hated it. As for the Uzumaki? That was an entirely different bag of fish.
Her chakra swelled the size of oceans when as a genin the whole of it could barely fit into a teardrop. Maybe even less, then. Maybe even more, now. Still Sasuke dwarfed her. Where she'd been able to destroy Itachi, Sasuke didn't rely only on his Sharingan. Surprising.
And here... Naruto still outclassed her as well.
The only difference it seemed now was the stakes. Back then the joy of a small island nation, the bad company men, and the pay at the end of each mission were all that mattered.
"I almost chose Sasuke." Naruto said lowly after sometime had passed. "His fondness for the Uchiha rivaled yours, but in the end... well. I don't think the Uchiha could change anything. Not for the better at least."
Sakura raised an eyebrow. "He seems to have done well for Konoha. Taking your dream. Why not?"
Naruto scoffed. "Not my dream. Monkey. Anyway, where you're going, you won't be able to keepfrom changing things. Sasuke? He wouldn't."
A tick formed on Sakura's brow. "And... where am I going? I don't feel like throwing me off the edge of the world will help me change anything." She couldn't help the stab of spite. Afraid yes, but never to afraid to be affronted.
That grin that minded her of Gaara during the Chunin exams so long ago crossed Naruto's face and he cocked his head again. "Don't worry Sakura-chan." The pet name sounded nothing like Naruto's old voice. Nothing at all. "I won't send you off alone. You would be too frightened I'm sure, monkeylette."
Great. Sakura thought. He's more insane than I thought. Why does he keep calling me a...?
It was pointless to keep thinking. Naruto had been a missing ninja for almost five years now. Ever since the battle at the valley of the end. He'd kept his promise, only to disappear himself. Sasuke returned, glum as ever, and hell bent on his revenge as he always had been. The seal that Orochimaru had left on his neck was nowhere to be found.
Naruto though... He was just gone. Not a whisper, not a thread.
Sakura made a feeble attempt to come up with another escape plan she'd tried hundreds of times already. The seal on her breast was impenetrable as it was impossible. No seal should be able to completely block human chakra. But this one did. Worst still the strange kanji glowed a lime green like the color of a medic jutsu.
She cringed inwardly. Medic jutsu. Pah! She still remembered the first time she'd beaten Tsunade. That hadn't even been one of her more pressing milestones. Sasuke had sailed right on by...
She tried to focus, realizing that the thought of her upcoming death at the hands of a madman who had once been her friend was sending her thoughts into a flight.
There was little she could do though. Little and less still. So she walked, following her captor and smelling the featherlocks and clofynes and dreaming of home in all its hateful bitterness. No loves. No passions. Not really even any companions since Ino died. Taken by the bloody poxof all things. Fucking Tsunade. Best medic nin, her ass.
Only training. Only the art of being a ninja to comfort her. Only the knowledge of knowing she was second.
Third, she amended with another glance to the blonde.
As if her eyes upon him had been a queue, the blonde boy turned around and flopped down on a particularly comfortable looking rock. He set aside his pack, pulling a loaf of bread and a few apples that had seen better days from the bottom of it. He tossed her the loaf and began to gnaw on the apple. He glared at it hatefully as if it had wrongedhim in some way. As if eating it was punishment for its own existence.
"A day then, huh?" Sakura asked sadly, glancing around the mountain passes at the bits of shrubbery and the wildflowers that covered the area.
"A day." The boy nodded. "A day, and I can set right the wrongs of the past..."
Sakura didn't know how to respond from this, so instead she began to nibble on the loaf. A nibble became gorging as she realized the bread was quite good.
"I don't suppose you've heard of Akatsuki... have you?" Naruto asked suddenly, sounding unnervingly like his old self for a moment.
Sakura shrugged. "Can't say that I have. Why?"
Naruto sighed. "We are close enough. No one is following. I think I can afford to tell you the story now, Monkeylette."
Sakura sat throwing her legs across one another in interest. "Do tell."
"I am not Naruto Uzumaki." The boy said coldly.
Sakura was unsurprised. "Reeeaaally?" She drawled wryly.
In response to her bating, the man gave a smirk. "Truly."
"Then who are you?" Sakura asked, unconvinced.
The boy shrugged indifferently. "A mere shadow of what I once was. And yet... I am more. I am thought. I am belief. I am... free in a way that I never was before. But caged by my debt. By guilt. It... pains me."
Sakura cocked her head sideways. This was intriguing. Her captor was in pain? Hell yeah...
"Before I was sealed into a human body, I was a beast. Mindless, single minded. A being of rage and of delight. Little more than an animal. I followed my base instincts as a rabbit might run from the wind. As a bear might catch fish." He said with scorn. Even so, she detected trace amounts of regret in the man's soft words.
"I was easily controlled. Easily manipulated. I was sealed. In my beastly it is surprising I remained free and rabid for as long as I did. I can admit that now. Your kind... your kind is clever. For monkeys." The sun-haired man said with a small measure of grudging respect.
Sakura listened intently. At least she would have a story to take with her to her grave.
"When I was sealed, I was numb with rage. For years it was all I had. Trapped, imprisoned in the body of beings who were so small that I should've been able to crush them beneath my paws! I've only felt such anger once since." He trailed off, an edge of bitterness tingeing his blue eyes. "But... as time passed, the humans influenced me. Before... before I was just a monster. Just a beast with no thought, no form. But living within the human body, I began to take on their characteristics. Thought. The ability to learn from my mistakes. The need for companionship... even love, entered me. I grew... smarter. And with each leap I gained I began to look back with shame on the thing that I was. A fox with rabies. A big fox. But a fox nonetheless."
Sakura was almost completely lost by this point. A fox? A beast? None of these things described Naruto very well. Sure he'd been a troublemaker in school but... wait what was that about sealing? Bah. She'd never been very good at fuinjutsu. And why did he keep talking about himself as if he weren't human?
"The yondaime and the boy changed everything." The whiskered blonde said.
The yondaime. He'd died only a few weeks after Sakura was born. What did he have to do with... wait hadn't there been an attack on the village then? October tenth was a day all the adults celebrated the Yondaime's death. Killing a... damn. Near photographic memory and nowit abandoned her.
"Time passed, but I was a bitter creature. I was angry for the loss of my freedom. Angry and spiteful. Even years after I'd been sealed away I still hated and still raged. Thirteen years. Only recently have I finally lost that terrible hatred that governed me for so long." The man looked weary suddenly, but Sakura had the intense feeling that the telling of this story was helping him far more than her.
"I was sealed into your brat of a teammate. Your dobe. Your dead last. Your savior, though you never knew it. I would've slain your parents and your grandparents and your friends and your enemies and everyone you've ever known. Then I would've scorched the earth so strongly that a plant wouldn't grow there for millennia, if not for your Uzumaki Naruto and his father." Naruto gave a sigh and a shrug. Fond remembrances danced across his eyes, memories that Sakura couldn't pick out.
"Wait you were sealed in Naruto? You mean like Gaara?" Sakura asked, finally making sense of the sealing bit. So this wasn't Naruto? This was... something clicked in her mind. A memory from her childhood.
The Yondaime. The Yondaime had saved the village from-!" You're the Kyuubi no Kitsune! By god you're the strongest of the tailed beasts aren't you!"
Naruto smiled. A foxy grin. Sakura felt her heart warm just a little at that. The man was older than the Naruto she remembered from five years ago, but she would have to be a fool not to recognize the joyful eyes of her old teammate. So carefree. So determined. Such an enigma. Sakura felt a fool. All her youth wastedon the bastard of a Hokage when something so bright had stood right next to her. Waiting, like a bonfire just around the corner. She'd felt the warmth then, but ignored it, preferring to roast her marshmallows in the icy river that had been Sasuke Uchiha.
"Naruto spoke so highly of you. He always has. His joy at your fame was something I delighted in during these last few years, secretly, in the corner of me that I refused to recognize. I'm glad to see his beliefs were not unfounded." Naruto said. His voice was lucid. The creepy humor that he had been showing her for so long was fading away. Monkeylette. Why had it taken her so damn long!
"He... never told me." She voiced bitterly, realizing with a sudden start that she believed this figment from stories that came to her in the shape of Naruto. "All that time together and he never told me."
"He was afraid. I was... not so kind then as I am now. He feared you would hate him." Naruto replied carefully as if trying to choose the right words.
Sakura thought for a moment. Then sighed. "He was right to be. I would've shunned him. Petty little thing I was... I'd've been afraidof him. Pah. There are worse things than demons. There are humans who hate more than you..." Her mind trailed to Orochimaru. A few strands of tears came to her eyes at that.
So many children. So... many dead experiments...
"The Valley of the End." The whiskered man said continuing with his story, holding up a finger. "It was the peak of my anger. I hated Naruto so much. I hated him with a passion that none can sympathize with. Your Sasuke's hatred for his brother was a pale echo of my own anger. Not just at Naruto, either. I hated myself for what I had been when I was free. I hated that I'd never really had freedom. A thousand years and longer I have lived, and each generation saw a new technique or trick that you monkeys used to manipulate me. I've destroyed more countries than your map now holds at the whims of monkeys with enough brains to know how to send me into a rampage. It... hurt. My attack on Konoha was just one of a thousand similar stories. The only difference was that Konoha had the Yondaime."
Sakura beamed with pride at that unconsciously. There was no place like Konoha. There never was, and there never would be another. Even if the current Hokage was a cheating son-of-a...!
She stopped her thoughts there before they got out of hand. No use crying over spilt milk.
"But the Gaki, your Naruto, loved more than I could ever hate. He fought Sasuke. He used my power and he won. Even more, Naruto saved Sasuke by destroying Orochimaru's cursed seal. He shoved my chakra into that unsightly pimple and popped it as such."
Sakura gave a small giggle at that. The image of Sasuke with a pimple was enough to send her laughing. Oh she felt like a child... This was serious! She had to focus! Damn this bread was good! It had been a long time since she'd talked with anyone who disliked Sasuke Uchiha as much as she, and the taste was refreshing.
…Sasuke with pimples... She giggled again.
Naruto quirked an eyebrow, but said nothing in regards to her strange behavior.
"Naruto had used too much of my power by then. Three tails. He tried to stop. To put my power back within him, but the cap was already off the bottle. His chakra was tinged with red and no matter what he tried he could not return to being... normal. I wouldn't let him." Bitterness again. A man filled with self loathing and regret.
Sakura felt his sorrow. Even after the two months since she'd been kidnapped, this short conversation was already assuaging her anger. It was hard to stay angry at someone who so clearly hated himself.
"So he left." Sakura interjected. "Rather than let his precious people discover his secret and fear him, he left."
Naruto protected us all, and after all this time we'd just thought he walked away. That arrogant Uchiha ass! He came back acting like Naruto had done nothing at all... And of course I was there to swoon. Sakura's thoughts turned grim at that. She hated how foolish she'd been.
Naruto nodded. "Indeed. But he never stopped protecting Konoha. Never. You think your Hokage has done well? Wrong. The boy is the reason for your peace, your prosperity."
Sakura smiled. That... that felt good.
"What happened for the next few years is largely irrelevant." Naruto intoned. "Suffice to say that he spent his time helping little children out of burning buildings and old ladies cross streets. I never told him... how much it touched me. His care. Enough of such a thing can soften the hearts of even the demon of rage."
The pink-haired girl grew concerned as tears welled in Naruto's eyes. She almost rose but Naruto halted her with an open palm as he wiped his eyes vigorously. "Damn these human emotions." The blonde cursed with a tear-stained sniff. "A double edged sword if ever there was one. Some so marvelous that they can destroy you to your soul. Some so horrible they can lift mountains and bend seas to their whim."
"Heh. Yeah they'll... they'll do that." She replied awkwardly. "What happened?"
Sakura watched the blonde swallow. She could almost see the visible knot of guilt clogging his neck. For a being crafted of pure rage, guilt must have been such a foreign emotion. Sakura had been known for her empathy. For her mercy. Damn if she wasn't going to let it out now.
"My original question." Naruto stated, finally regaining his composure. "Akatsuki."
Sakura strained her memory hoping for a glimpse or a glimmer. She found one, from a cobweb covered memory of a conversation with Jiraiya and the Godaime. "Oh wait! They were some cult weren't they...? I thought they all died out a while back. Jiraiya was a bit concerned about them for a while..."
"He would be." The tailed beast in human form replied somberly. "Akatsuki was a team of elite S rank ninja with a common goal of gathering the bijuu. All of them."
The pink haired Kunoichi blinked in astonishment. "All of them? Were they insane?" She asked quite plainly shocked.
"Yes." Naruto stated with a finality that shook her. "They sought to revive a fallen god, hoping to reshape the world anew. And they nearly succeeded."
"You're joking." Sakura stated plainly. "No one is that strong. The bijuu containers are..." Sakura's thoughts trailed to Gaara. Supposedly the weakest of the containers. He was a maelstrom in battle. A man worth thousands. She'd take him as an ally over any other person she'd ever met... save perhaps Naruto. And someone gathered all of them? "God, you destroyed half of Konoha the night you got loose... And they were going to raise something stronger?"
Naruto nodded, seeming relatively unaffected by her outburst.
"The death toll alone would have..." The kunoichi stared, almost in shell shock with the new information. "Hell I'd probably have been forced to stay a medic nin with threats like that against us on principle alone..."
"Shukaku, Nekomata, Isonade, Sokou, Houkou, Raiju, Kaku, Orochi." Naruto ticked them off one by one. "All of them were gathered and stored. Only one still remained. Me. Kyuubi no Youko. Naruto's journey and most of his hardships stemmed from dealing with the members of this group."
Sakura still wasn't convinced. "But... wait, I've seen Gaara recently! He is the container of the Shukaku. I'm sure of it! Naru... you. You fought him during the Chunin exams."
Naruto gave a shake of the head. "Gaara was the container. Now? Now Shukaku is dead, along with the rest of them. Only I remain..."
"H-how?" She asked, only slightly off balance. If the tailed beasts were dead... wasn't that something people should know about? Nothing of this had come to Konoha! Not a whisper!
Naruto ignored the question, preferring to continue his story instead. "Naruto, too, was captured. He killed three of these Akatsuki before they finally took him but still he was captured. But... when they tried to extract me. When... when they began to tear me away from him..."
"What happened, Kyuubi?" Sakura asked, eager for the story. She felt sympathy for the blonde's tears. Regret. But she needed to know. She hadto know.
"You must understand... I had been able to speak to Naruto for years. There was a cage. A prison in his mind that held me from the moment I first entered the seal. His influence on me was strong though. When I was first sealed I was a rage demon. I could feel no other emotion. No worry for tomorrow. No thought for yesterday. So... so when they began to extract me, that was the first time I ever truly felt afraid. Our fights with Orochimaru, or other members of the Akatsuki had held no fear for me. If the boy died I would be free. That was that.. But this...? This was my own death. My own destruction. These people were going to use me and destroy me to bring back the being that spawned us."
The green-eyed girl had nothing to say. Pity aplenty but she was aware that she was still kidnapped at the moment. Even still, her eyes begged him to continue.
"And... the boy. Your dead last. He came to the cage in my mind and watched me. I begged him to help me! I... I was so terrified of my own death that I begged the Gaki to save me! He smiled. After all my years of hatred. All my rage against him, all of his life I had ruined. He tore off the seal and entered my cage in his mind." The man paused for breath, and Sakura realized that she'd been holding hers. Naruto Uzumaki. Who had he been, really?
"That didn't matter, of course." Naruto continued. "Seal or no, I was still being sucked away, stored like some fledgling djinn in a bottle to be used and destroyed. I was helpless. And he... he took my place."
Sakura blinked. "What?" She asked, confused.
"Rather than allow me to be consumed, he placed his own soul in the way. He dived into the containment field where the other bijuu had already been collected. Human chakra was not meant for the Conclave of the Caracrass. His chakra, by then nearly a match for my own, melded with that of the other bijuu in the same way sulfur melds with water. The Akatsuki screamed in affront, incapable of comprehending what was happening as their precious Conclave exploded in the middle of the ritual. I on the other hand was suddenly, unerringly free. The remaining members of Akatsuki died as the Kyuubi no Kitsune's rage once again colored the skies black!"
The pink-haired girl shivered. Naruto's voice sounded strangely ethereal as he spoke, his voice tinged with a background of lightning and thunder.
"Naruto... He would do that wouldn't he?" She asked idly.
"Without a second thought." The Kyuubi replied invariably. "All the time I spent watching him... I was jealous. Jealous of those he loved while all he had for me was hate. He loved people he didn't know, but there was never any to spare for the Kyuubi..."
Sakura frowned. That sounded a bit petulant.
"...but there was! Even I could be loved... Even I. He died. For me! Who would die for a demon? And now... now I'm slowly forgetting why."
"I... I'm sorry for your loss. Naruto was a good friend to me as well." She said this, even though she didn't really understand what he was talking about. Her own bit of self bitterness filtered in after that thought. A man like that...? A man good enough to die forsuch an undeserving creature? Sakura only wished she could find such a one. If only she hadn't been so blind...
"That is why I need you." The Kyuubi said, his voice singing with Naruto's tongue.
Right. That was why she'd been angry with him. How under the six paths had she forgotten?
"Why? Why me? And why did you wait so long to tell me? What's this goddamn seal on my chest!" She hissed as anger came back at the remembrance of that tiny little detail. "And why in hell do you want to throw me off the edge of the world?"
Naruto remained solemn. Unblinking. "I... I am afraid. Once again." He said mutely.
"Of what? The Akatsuki are dead aren't they?" Sakura asked idly.
Naruto nodded, but then hesitated. "Yes... all but one. He is of no importance though. I... what I fear is..."
"Spit it out!" Sakura growled impatiently.
Naruto's eyes narrowed, and Sakura was suddenly reminded that she was the captive. A trail of sweat trickled down her neck as a maelstrom of invisible chakra flooded the area, then quieted just as quickly.
"I am afraid." The man said the word in the way a mouse might speak of a snake. "Of becoming what I was... before. Of becoming that mindless... I... don't want to be that either. I don't want to be fooled into attacking villages because I'm too stupid to realize that one monkey is not the same as another. I..."
Sakura's frowned evaporated as horror replaced it. Kyuubi. A rage demon, give emotions by proxy of dwelling within a human. Now the demon was... losing its ability to feel? Sakura felt cold. What would it be like to wake up each day wondering if it was the last one in which you would understand joy? Or sorrow? Or love?
"Each day I can feel the rage returning. My intellect, my human emotions are ebbing away. Even this body... this body of the friend I cherish so, is fading. Soon I will again be the demon fox Kyuubi no Kitsune." He stated without the air of pride Sakura might've expected.
"And you think I can help?" She asked, suddenly hopeful.
"Not think." He stated glumly. "Know."
Sakura frowned as she thought about the man's words. What was he trying to elude to. Was he...?
Suddenly it all clicked. The Kyuubi, if Sakura didn't miss her guess, loved Naruto. Only his death had been enough to make the creature realize it. And who better to take Naruto's place than the one the sun kissed blonde had admired so?
"You want me to become your Jinchuriiki." She stated.
The man nodded. "I... would like that very much."
"You... you want to be imprisoned again? I mean, it just seems like... I don't know. You've hated it for so long. Now that your finally free you want to be sealed again. It all seems so grim." Sakura sighed looking Naruto in the eyes.
He was dirty. More so than even she. He knew how, she was certain, from watching Naruto, but the reason behind it was beyond him. His teeth were jagged and cut. Probably from eating raw wildlife, unless the blood on his black and orange jumper was something else. Unaccustomed to feeding himself in a human form, Kyuubi probably did what he remembered.
She smiled at him and couldn't help but feel the comparison to a wounded kitten. Taken in, fixed and then thrown back out to the wild after having grown used to the petting and pampering the vet had given. She didn't make this comparison aloud, but she couldn't help but feel it.
"She stood finally, and approached her captor of two months. Not close enough to hug him, she instead gave him a pat on the back. He was tense but it eased at the feeling of her palm rubbing gently along his shoulder as she circled him. She bend down, hovering over the rock he sat on, and stared him in the eyes.
So fragile. So afraid. So new to fear. It hurt her inside to see this once great being so vulnerable.
"I'll be your Jinchuriiki." She said resolutely. "I promise."
Naruto met her eyes, and the pink-haired girl saw the purest gratitude in them. "Thank you."
Sakura smiled. So this was her fate. The cage for the Kyuubi no Kitsune. Life's strange twists! But one thing still bugged her.
"Can you please take the seal off me now? I'm not going to run anywhere." She asked, poking her left breast irritably. Knowing that the green and blue symbols below were shimmering on her skin still irritated her. The Kyuubi had apparently been quiet enough to sneak into her house and paint on her goddamn breastwhile she slept. Without disturbing her. That spoke of skill.
And if that wasn't enough the endless escape attempts that he had thwarted almost without a care spoke for his skill in finding her. It was... irritating.
"No!" Kyuubi laughed, wearing Naruto's old grin. "Actually, that's the first step of the sealing. If you're going to be my Jinchuriiki then you need to have nearly completely empty Chakra pathways."
Sakura blinked. Well that explains why I've been feeling so weak the past few days. She thought in a lightening mood. She'd never realized just how much she'd come to depend on Chakra. It gave her pride to know that nearly two months of Chakra drain had only just begun to truly deplete her reserves.
"And the edge? You still haven't told me what you meant before." She asked with a hint of doubt in her voice.
"The edge... It would be fatal to any of you monkeys." Sakura had a funny feeling that Kyuubi would never stop calling humans monkeys. "But to I? The edge is no fear. I have a debt to repay, and Time will not stop me."
The way he said timesent a shiver up the back of Sakura's spine. And she believed him.
Another day passed. Another day of walking, for Naruto anyways. Since she had agreed, Naruto had placed the second design of the seal upon her breast while she'd slept. And when she'd awoken, her vast quantities of chi had depleted to near death levels.
Waking up to find that the bastard had been able to undress her and paint on her againhad been humiliating but she hid it as best she could. Whether he looked human or not, if his story was to be believed, he was the Nine Tailed Kyuubi. She doubted lust even registered with him.
"I still don't understand why you decided to paint it on my breast!" She hissed angrily, out of the blue as he carried her.
Naruto met her eyes easily. "Because women rarely ever show them. The seal on the Gaki's stomach gave him no end of trouble..."
Sakura paused. That... made sense.
"...And because I find them delightful."
Kyuubi was nursing a black eye and scowling at her moments later. She shrugged and scowled right back.
They were approaching the edge. Sakura could feel it in her bones. There was an air of... holiness about this place. As if she was not meant to come here. The weather was wrong. The sky was wrong. Even the mountains were wrong.
Wind travelled in directions that it had no business flowing. One moment it blew normally east to west, and then seconds later it changed direction. Only to be flowing north to south mere moments after that! She tried to find some semblance of order to it, to pass the time, but in the two hours since it had begun acting strangely she'd found no pattern.
The sun changed places. Literally. One moment it was dead noon. Then as they walked it would... shift. Always just out of notice though. It would be morning, and only after it had moved would Sakura notice the difference. Then she would find herself trying to catch the wind's pattern, and before she knew it, sunset would be upon them.
Then noon again. All just on the edge of her awareness. She contemplated asking the Kyuubi but she doubted he would be able to make sense of it either. If he'd been a beast all his life, it was unlikely that he understood any better than she.
Which made him wonder how the Kyuubi knew so much about the edge anyway.
Another two hours passed in silence before Naruto grew frustrated. "Damn I don't remember it being this far!" He hissed impatiently.
Sakura chuckled. "You used to take steps that were the length of towns."
The blonde blinked at that. "I also didn't have to carry a Monkeylette. Why are you so heavy?"
Sakura's eyes went black. And this time Naruto found himself with a swelled cheek, and an irritated tick on his brow.
"That was unnecessary." He told her calmly, trying not to succumb to the rage building within him, while quietly nursing a jaw that ached more than he would like to admit.
"I disagree." Sakura replied. Then, she folded her arms under her breasts and huffed. It was humiliating enough to be carried like this, but to be insulted on top of that? Naruto was a baka, no matter who was behind the face.
God she wished her own legs would support her.
Another short while later Sakura met Naruto's eyes again. "You are sure you aren't trying to kill me?" She murmured. She was so tired... her body felt like a lead weight. It didn't hurtexactly, it just did everything else. Her ears felt muffled, her eyelids drooped, her limbs were nearly immobile. She felt thankful that she could actually chew the food Naruto had given her.
"You wouldn't be of any use to me dead, Monkeylette. No use to the Gaki either." Naruto replied haughtily. It was that very tone that made her certain this wasn't Naruto. It gave her confidence.
The green eyed girl was beginning to think Kyuubi used the word 'Gaki' as a term of endearment for Naruto. Irritably, she suspected that 'Monkeylette' was to be her own.
"Well that's good to hear. Not very reassuring though." She reasoned. She was older now, but she remembered a time when being told she would be of no use dead would've offended her. So naive...
"We're here." The blonde interrupted her thoughts suddenly, just as the crested the top of a particularly tall mountain.
Where the downhill slope of the mountains other side should have been, was a solid cliff, completely flat and smooth as glass straight down into an endless abyss of darkness that stretch as far to the west and east as she could see, as far to the north.
The temptation to lean over the edge was tantalizing but her instinctive reaction was to jerk away, back down the mountain. Back to the familiar... Held bridal style in Naruto's unfathomably strong arms though, she barely even managed a twitched.
"I know." The sun-haired shinobi chuckled. "It still awes me even after all this time."
"This is incredible!" Sakura exclaimed, heated rapture taking over her. Never had she seen so grand and so terrifying a sight. The edge of the world... they'd made it.
The wind now buffeted everything. Over the edge of the cliff there was no ground. Just darkness, so deep and so all consuming that Orochimaru's darkest techniques would look like sunlight by comparison. The mountains all ended, all the way east and west at this abrupt cliff. As if they were hills of sand that had been pushed up against the side of a glass box, she could see them from the outside. The earth was not welcome beyond that point. As if the great sea of darkness spoke out saying: "This is where reality ends and dreams begin."
In the sky, a thunderstorm began, clouds bunching up to the edge of the mountains, but didn't cross over to Sakura's realm. Black clouds, that periodically lit with lightning, hidden by their immensity. There was no thunder. Endless dances of white and black, but no thunder.
"Are you ready?" Naruto asked calmly as he laid her down on the rock ground next to the edge. "You may still return now, but after this, there is no coming back. We are leaving this world behind for another. You will not be able to take anything with you but your memories."
She hesitated. Was her life so awful here that she was willing to risk everything? No. No it wasn't.
Konoha flourished. Children sang and played happily. The worldflourished. The peace between Fire and Lightning countries had dominoed into a worldwide phenomenon the likes of which Shinobi had never known. Decade long disputes miraculously settled and Ninja began to lay down their hatred and their powers by the day.
It was a world of joy, and an era that poets would sing of.
But... it was empty. Her life wasn't awful, but neither did it have meaning. Sasuke was there to shepherd the world through the paths of peace that Naruto had paved. But what need was there for Sakura? Ino, her best friend was long gone. Naruto... A boy who'd she'd only barely glimpsed the surfaces of. He'd done so much and nothing had been given him in return.
"One thing." She asked politely. "Could you... make a gravestone for me?"
Kyuubi nodded. His vast red chakra left his body and a slab of mountain erupted from the earth. Before her eyes shards of wind sliced it into a headstone that would've cost thousands.
"What would you like it to say?"
Sakura thought for a moment, before deciding on the words of her final marker in this world. "This spot marks where Sakura Haruno left this world and entered the next. Perhaps there, she will be useful." It was a small jab at Sasuke, but more a fervent hope. She'd outlived whatever purpose she'd had here. Maybe there she could find a new one.
The words carved themselves into the headstone before her eyes, and then the great silvery block slammed itself into the ground at the edge of the world.
"I'm ready." Sakura stated calmly. She smiled. Naruto. She wondered if he would be just as she remembered? He'd completed the promise of a lifetime. He'd sent Sasuke back. He deserved the kiss on the cheek she'd never been able to give him.
Ino Yamanaka... She'd had so many wasted opportunities to mend their broken friendship, but she had squandered them. The girl's disease took her before she'd had the chance to really get to know the platinum blonde again. But now...?
"Yeah. I'm ready." She repeated.
"Then let us begin." Naruto uttered as he turned to face her. Then, he reached out and casually squeezed her breast.
"What the fu-!" Sakura didn't manage to finish as pain unlike any she had ever imagined engulfed her. Her screams filled the mountains like the sound of a slain banshee.
Naruto ignored them. His chakra roared a bloody red as he began to carve the final markings of the seal into her skin, and push his soul into her.
Consciousness left her, but her screams didn't cease.
An eternity seemed to pass for Sakura. After what seemed a thousand years, her eyes fluttered open weakly. Her shirt was shredded. Her body numb, her eyes tear stained, her throat raw. Something foreign seemed to be crawling within her skin. Like bugs or maybe poison. But the pain was dimmed now. Her left breast throbbed with bloody carvings but those might as well have been pinpricks.
Two neon blue eyes stared down at her.
"Is it... done?" She asked. How was he still here? If he was sealed within her then why...?
"It is. All that is left is one final touch." Naruto said as he put an arm gently behind her neck, and the other beneath her knees to lift her.
Sakura could only lie in his arms as he pulled her close. Shock filled her as she stared at him. Wisps of chakra were leeching from his body and into hers. Whole segments of him seemed to flicker... as if the body was only just barely stable. Just a touch away from collapsing into dust.
But his hands were warm.
"Am I dying...?" She asked softly.
"Yes." The Kyuubi replied. "But you won't. Good luck Sakura. I will see you when you next wake, in the world of yesterday."
Sakura nodded. Then she flew.
Her stomach fluttered as she fell, flying over the edge of the world and down, down into the abyss, vertigo overtaking her every pore.
Despite her fear, she fell head on her eyes filled only with darkness and the sensation of falling. Her limbs seemed revitalized. The poison in her veins turned to water. Clear, smooth, and free. And her excitement began to blossom.
Naruto stood on the edge of the cliff, looking down. His soul, his chakra, followed the girl as she fell down off the edge of the world.
A presence materialized behind him.
"Kyuubi...!" The voice seethed, pure hatred echoing from the newcomer in waves as human chakra engulfed the summit.
Naruto turned and faced the man with a laughing eyebrow. "Madara Uchiha." He laughed then. "You are too late."
Madara seethed in a manner that didn't fit his normally calm exterior. He threw a single Kunai. Naruto made no move to dodge. As it impacted, Naruto exploded into a cloud of dust and Chakra.
Madara was left alone on the mountaintop.
Hundreds of miles away the villagers of a town nearest the edge of the world could've sworn they heard the desperate screams of a man with no hope.
"This spot marks where Sakura Haruno left this world and entered the next. Perhaps there, she will be useful."
Sasuke Uchiha looked up from the report to the ANBU nin kneeling below him. "You are certain of this?" He asked, his face showing not the slightest hint of emotion.
"Positive, Hokage-sama." The ANBU replied, adjusting his wolf facemask as he did so.
Sasuke nodded. "Leave me."
The ANBU disappeared.
No one was there to see the greatest Hokage shed a tear, red eyes of the mangekyo spinning all the while.
This fic was heavily inspired by Ozz's new fic "Reap the Whirlwind." An epic fic if ever there was one I assure you.
Also, at least a small nod goes to the fic "Shattered Eyes." I can't remember the author but it was a damn good one. Wish me luck with this one. I've got a decently fun plot planned out with plenty o' originality! Cheers!
If you feel it's worth continuing leave a review! They aren't necessary but they always help with the inspiration.