"Damn it, I said get back!" Shikamaru shouted to the men before him, his words a mere accompaniment to his shadow jutsu wrapping around the three men still in the path of the crumbling hall and throwing them to safety. The men needed no further prompting and darted down the twisting tunnels, struggling to reach open space before the vast cave buried them alive. Shikamaru muttered a steady stream of curses as he followed his men - even when he paused long enough to help the clone Naruto left behind grab the two remaining civilians and make a break for the entrance to the forest, he never stopped his tirade. Only after he'd left the emaciated woman with Shizune did he move back towards the crater now left in the forest floor. The three men currently doing battle before them blasted such a large hole in the cavern that the walls could no longer support the structure. The cave collapsed upon itself destroying miles of the forest in the process. On top of that pile of rubble, Naruto and Sasuke were dealing a constant barrage of attacks to Orochimaru's former companion. The battle was such that none of the accompaning teams could assist at the moment. Shikamaru cursed, yet again, at his impetuous teammates actions, but delivered the quick message of "hold your positions" to those under his command. The time and effort they'd spent back in Konoha developing different scenarios for the battle with Kabuto had been rendered useless. The young genius could feel Neji's own frustrations with their actions as he glared at the battle before him, Byakugan activated and missing nothing of the fight. "Dumbasses", Shikamaru muttered before reaching into his pouch and pulling out the trump card left to him by Tsunade-sama.
Thankfully, the stratgiest had developed a few scenarios of his own - including one for Naurto ignoring all plans and rushing headlong into battle.
"Futon: Kazekiri no jutsu!"
A wounded shriek thundered over the desert village as blades of wind ripped down the side of the monstrous animal making its way over the protective walls of the desert city. Temari leapt from the rooftop now in the direct path of the creature. She perched upon the water tower, unfurled her large fan, and let loose her jutsu once more. The animal howled in pain, but the attack only gave it pause in its decent into her home town. Shinobi dashed across the streets of Suna; some rushed to take positions around the creatures, hoping to stop them from fully gaining access to the city, while others directed civilians away from the area. Four of the massive creatures were making their way over the high walls, their claws punching barrell sized holes in the dense clay.
"Get the civilians out of here!"
Temari gave Kankuro only a cursoury glance as she let loose another attack on the reptilian beings. Her brother was directing a group of genin and chunin doing their best to remove anyone from harm's way as rubble started to fly from the collapse of a building unlucky enough to be in the path of their attackers. The blond clicked her tongue in frustration as her wind did little to deter the creatures from their trek among the city. A collective battle cry ripped through the air some many streets over; Temari watched as numerous spikes of earth pierced through the creature bearing down on the outer most team. Its hiss of pain could be heard by all, but no cry of victory followed the attack. Instead, a crash sounded and a cloud of dust filled the air when the wounded animal descended on its attackers - its jaws snapping at anything or anyone within reach. She turned away from the fight and focused on her own battle. Though she was worried about her fellow countrymen, the kunoichi had to trust in their abilities as she engaged the threat before her.
Wind sickles danced from her fan, slicing shallow cuts through thick scales over and over, forcing the monster back bit by bit. In her enthusiam over gaining a bit of ground with the animal, Temari ventured too close and found herself within striking distance of the creature. Caught off guard by the proximity, she jumped from the building she perched upon too late and was caught in the side by its snout. The impact sent her flying into the ground, hitting hard enough to rob her of breath and stunning the blond for a few moments. She struggled to sit up, her chest now aching with the pain of a broken rib and her head swimming from the blow. Too slow in her movements, she soon felt the creatures hot breath wash over her, the stench turning her stomach. Her vision cleared, allowing her to see the wide jaws bearing down on her. Before she could even gather her wits to move, something wrapped round her middle and snatched her back from the area just as the immense jaws dug into the earth.
"Pay attention why don't ya?"
The familiar voice was a comfort, and yet, the heat with which the words were barked stroked her ire in their usual way.
"Shut up!" She yelled back to Kankuro, disengaging herself from his puppet, Kuroari. The extending arms had snatched her away from the jaws of death with nary a second to spare. "I am paying attention! The bastard just managed to clip me, that's all."
"Why don't you focus on your own job?" She unleashed her wind sickles once more, now that she was out of the creatures reach. "And try not to get yourself killed in the process."
Her eye twitched in annoyance as Kankuro leapt from the building, heading to the group under his watch. The blond spent only a second more on the prayer for his safety before turning her attention fully to the reptile bearing down on her town. The damage so far had been only minimal; the shinobi of Suna had done their upmost to halt the progress of the beasts. In doing so, only the outskirts of the village had been destroyed. Though, that thought wasn't much of a comfort as Temari watched the massive claws of the animal come down on a row of single story family houses, leveling the lot of them as if they were blades of grass.
A scream richocheted off the villages walls, the tortured pain felt by all and standing the hairs on their necks. The near hysterical battle cry that followed was also soon extingushed. The ground shook with the force of a dozen men calling forth the earth to jut upward and pierce the beast. Temari couldn't look; she couldn't...wouldn't turn away from her fight to watch the ground only a few streets away turn red with her comrades blood. The kunoichi knew if she saw her men falling to these bastards, she'd abandon her post and run straight to their sides. To do such a thing right then would only put more people in harm's way. Ignoring the intense urge to look away, Temari leapt from her perch atop the building and moved closer to her prey.
She hit the creature before her with a wall of wind, forcing it back a few feet and giving the newly arrived team below time to unleash their weapons. A barrage of steel connected with the tough outer scales adorning the beast. To her dismay, they simply bounced off the creature and did little to detur it from lashing out with its mighty jaws. The shinobi scattered as teeth made contact with stone, crushing yet another store front in its assault. She unfurled her fan, ready to attack once more, when a familiar chakra tickled her senses. Relief flooded her at his presence, but she also couldn't stop the thread of worry that snaked through her as well. In the past, that worry would have been for all around, but time had changed him from the monster he once tried to emulate.
Time and one particular individual that was.
Now, the worry lingering in her mind was all for his safety.
Hopeful whispers of prayer started rolling off the tongues of battling shinobi as they felt his presence cover the town. The initial scant trace of chakra that alerted them to his arrival was growing, building upon itself until everyone in the village felt the warmth of his aura. He towered over the city, floating above the Kazekage's tower on a layer of sand and cast his eyes on the destruction wrought upon his people. Temari felt a shiver lick up her spine as his chakra spiked. The warmth it exuded now weighed heavily upon her chest, causing even someone of her level to feel its pressure. The shinobi lining the streets suddenly stopped moving, some unable to even stand under the chakra their kazekage exuded.
He dispersed his sand, landing gracefully just before Temari. Gaara strode forward, his eyes narrowed as he took in his prey. The Suna shinobi scrambled back from their battles as the creatures turned to face the red head whose powerful chakra pulsed with a deadly call. The air shifted around the kazekage who paid no heed to the snarling giants bearing down on him. He dropped to his knees, palms slamming into the ground as he poured every ounce of energy he possessed into a single jutsu.
The loud cry was punctuated by a single punch felt throughout the village. Buildings shook for a mile out from the impact point, urging those who'd somehow yet to hear the hideous growls of those pressing upon their village to seek refuge from the unknown threat. For the brave shinobi who stood as a barrier between their home and the monsters at their door, the curse was a rallying cry, a drop of courage in their suddenly dry spirits whilst facing the life size versions of whispered nightmares from a devastated people.
Their leader stood tall before them, her cloak billowing behind her as the dust settled from her surprise attack. She stood atop the crumbling border of the village, one of the giants laying amongst the toppled trees felled by his massive size. Her punch stunned the animal, but he showed signs of rousing. Sakura slipped her gloves on as she joined her mentor, casting a critical eye on the creatures bearing down on their newly rebuilt home.
"Shishou, this has to be..."
"Yes," she interrupted without bothering to turn to her student. "Kabuto's creatures that destroyed Kirigakure."
A shiver passed down the pinkette's spine. Five of them stood just outside the treeline, blocking out the sun to the miniscule humans standing before them. These were the creations Kabuto released onto a hidden village...nearly succeeding in wiping out an entire people. The terrain surrounding her beloved home was already torn apart by their massive claws. The growls sounding low in their throats had more than one shinobi's hand turning slick with sweat. Sakura felt her mentor's rage shaking her muscles, threatening to snap at any second. The blond's voice trembled when she finally spoke.
"This village has been rebuilt after one fool tried to destroy us. We will not do it again. These bastards go no further!"
The men and women lifted their voices to the wind, shouting their agreement and outrage at those threatening their homes. They stood as one behind their hokage, weapons drawn and hearts steadfast against the monsters tearing at the ground. The two parties moved together. Sakura offered a silent prayer for Sasuke once more, narrowed her eyes, and gathered her chakra. Her resounding cry joining the woman beside her.
Sasuke showed no signs of the burning pain that was shooting up his left arm; he merely lashed out against Kabuto as he ripped the bone lance he'd thrust through the avenger's bicep. Naruto was quick to advance on the snake sannin, pushing him further back giving Sasuke the moment he needed to adjust his grip on Kusunagi.
The frustration and self-imposed anger the Uchiha felt was nearly overwhelming his normal level head in the midst of battle. He'd known Kabuto had grown more powerful, the past few months were proof enough of that, but the immense strength Orochimaru's assistant showed when facing down, not only himself, but Naruto as well was almost unbelievable. This man before them had been of little consequence before. In years past, a single sharingan glance turned on him was enough to force the spy to retreat into the shadows.
Now, the man produced snakes with a speed Orochimaru would have been envious of. He countered blows with bones pulled from his body as Kimimaro once had. Most infuriating of all, was each slice of his sword merely slipped through his body as he liquefied his person as his fallen teammate once had. The latter had the rage in his soul boiling with a heat that threatened to burn him alive.
"Is this truly the best Konoha has to offer?" Kabuto taunted, a broken laugh lifting the end of his sentence. "This is the best the last Uchiha can muster?"
His eyes swirled violently, quickly shifting the shape of his sharingan before the mednin's laugh ended. "Amaterasu."
Black flames rolled over the sannin's body, covering each scale with its hellfire. Though the laughing ceased, the attack did not have its intended effect. Kabuto's form seemed to crumple into a tiny ball of burning flesh, but the man himself stood back watching it burn - an amused look in his eyes and smirk lifting once side of his scaled face. "Nice try, Sasuke-kun, but don't get too excited. Unlike our former master, I will not tire no matter how often I shed this skin."
The Uchiha ignored the barb and flooded his blade with lightening chakra. He allowed Naruto to advance first, his eyes surrounded by the markings of his sage mode, before flickering behind him, attacking just a moment later. Kabuto slipped through Naruto's hands and wrapped the snake appendage sticking from his belly around Sasuke's foot, throwing the younger man a few yards away. The avenger simply rolled to his feet and flew back towards the duo. Kabuto produced two bone daggers and parried the attacks of both men.
"If you two don't give me a moment to speak, I won't be able to tell you of the lovely surprise I have for you." Kabuto's slitted eyes fairly gleamed with amusement.
"We want nothing from you, you sick bastard!" Naruto screamed, striking out with his foot, pushing the natural energy of his sage mode out towards the snakes middle. A flicker of a grimace crossed Kabuto's face and he leapt back, barely missing the thrust of Sasuke's sword.
"Well, technically speaking, it's not for you," Kabuto panted. "I sent it to some friends of yours though."
"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?"
Kabuto chuckled once more, happy to have garnered at least one of the young men's attention. "I've known you were coming after me for days - you should thank me for being so kind as to stay put so your men could find me," he seemed to add as an afterthought. "And I didn't want your friends to be lonely with you gone from the village. I knew just the thing to send too. After all, my babies were so well received in Kirigakure that I knew they'd be enjoyed in each of the other hidden villages."
Sasuke's blood ran cold. The breath he'd taken left his body in an instant. A vision of Sakura's flushed cheeks and sleeping face passed through his mind. His muscles locked and stomach rolled with a myriad of emotions, fury and fear being the two he grasped tight. "Wha..." the words tried and failed to force themselves through his heaving chest.
"Are you not pleased with this news, Sasuke?" Kabuto mercilessly teased the shaking shinobi. "Don't worry, you'll be joining your friends soon enough. Once I dispose of you, I'll have conquered the last of my goals. I shall be born anew!"
"Sasuke get down."
The guttural words were forced from the snarling face of his partner. The whiskered scars marking his face seemed more prominent than usual as his chakra flared around him. Naruto was forming two Rasenshuriken with the aid of his clones. The wind began to burn and, having been told of its properties, Sasuke quickly dropped to a crouch as Naruto released the ever growing jutsu. Sasuke had no chance to watch the results as he found himself being pulled back from the fight. In but a moment, he found himself laying at the edge of the battlefield with Shikamaru leaning over his form.
"What the hell, Nara?" He bit out.
"Calm down, I'm going to send you right back."
"What do you want? We don't have time to waste; he sent..."
"I heard," The genius interrupted. "But we can't do anything about that right now. What we have to focus on is killing this sonofabitch." Shikamaru reached into a pocket on his flack vest and withdrew a single syringe. "It's time to use this."
Sasuke palmed the seemingly harmless object, testing the weight of the syringe filled with a pale yellow fluid. He cast a critical eye to his squad leader. "Is this what Sakura was working on?"
"Yes, they finished it just before we left the village."
Sasuke ignored the battle cries of his partner raging in the background. "What does it do?"
"I don't know." A terse frown marred the Uchiha's aristocratic face. "Not really anyway. Tsunade-sama said it was a molecular destabilizer."
"And that means what?"
"I'm not entirely sure." A heavy sigh passed his lips. "She mentioned something about cell structure and denaturation...these aren't terms I'm completely familiar with."
"However," the strategist interrupted. "Tsunade-sama was very clear with one point. After you inject..."
Shikamaru paused in his instructions as Naruto came rolling to a stop beside them. The jinchuuriki had blood streaming from his lip and boasted a long gash down his left arm. "What the fuck are you doing?" He growled to Sasuke as he struggled to his feet.
"Getting this." The Uchiha held the syringe aloft. "This is what Karin started and handed over to Sakura."
"They finished it?" Naruto exclaimed, his eyes lighting with excitement and hope. "Hell yeah!" With speed garnered from his sage mode, Naruto plucked the syringe from Sasuke's open palm and took off for Kabuto once more.
"Damn it all," Shikamaru muttered. "Naruto stop!" But his pleas fell on deaf ears. The genius noticed the tensing in Sasuke's muscles and quickly locked his shadow jutsu around the avengers ankle. "Just a moment," he hurried to explain as Sharingan eyes whipped his way. "Like I was trying to explain before, Tsunade-sama said it would not activate without a catalyst. I suggest heat."
Shikamaru disengaged his jutsu and Sasuke took off after his best friend; he needed no further explanations from their squad leader. The Uchiha danced between the rapidly disappearing bodies of Naruto's clones. True to form, Naruto used his seemingly endless supply of chakra to attempt to overwhelm the snake sanin. The remaining shinobi scattered as Naruto released an Oodama Rasengan which was quickly tearing up the already decimated forest floor.
"I expected better of you, Naruto-kun." Kabuto sent forth a barrage of bone spears, annihilating a dozen of the jinchuriki's clones. "Using the same old tactics again and again." The short prick to his skin nearly went unnoticed, but the barely restrained anger whispered near his ear had Kabtuo's head spinning round.
"Then tell me how much you like this."
"Katon: Gokakyu no Jutsu!"
Naruto sprang backwards, the heat from Sasuke's technique still scorching his skin as it enveloped Kabuto completely. The Konoha shinobi stood beside one another watching the fire burn itself out, leaving Kabuto standing before them - his skin quickly repairing itself and a smirk twisting his face. His snake retrieved the now empty syringe and Kabuto studied it with a quizzical eye.
"Allow me to guess...something created by the last of the original sannin? Or did our dear little Sakura-chan have a hand in this?" His throaty, hollow laughter rang out over the clearing. The glass syringe was tossed to the ground and crushed beneath his feet. "Honestly, their feeble attempts at medical ninjutsu are simply...pathetic."
"Sasuke..." Naruto began, his voice wavering with anxiety.
"And fire? Really now Sasuke-kun." Kabtuo's hands flew through a series of symbols, his chakra gathering around him. "I have to say I'm very disappointed. I expected more of a challenge from you. After all of the planning and preparations - for you to fall so easily by my hands is truly...appalling."
Kabuto continued to spin his chakra, the air around him swirling violently as his power grew. He allowed the smirk splitting his face to widen as he stared down the duo facing him. He attributed the burning racing down his arm to the immense power he was about to unleash on his foes. However, the look on his face was soon mirrored by the Uchiha. The cocky stance the young avenger adopted irked the sannin in ways all to reminiscent of the times he cowered in the underground hideaways watching the boy grow in power. "What?" He sneered to the dark haired man.
"Sakura-chan and baa-chan really are smart, aren't they?" Naruto said, a relieved chuckle accompanying his words.
"Oh, and don't forget Karin. This was her idea after all."
"True. She was used so much for her sensor type abilities that many forgot how intelligent she was. Myself included."
Kabuto had released the chakra he was building as the friends spoke. His arm was now shaking from the burning pain licking at his skin. Blood pounded in his ears, his chest became heavy, each breath he took was harder than the last to draw. "What," he panted. "What...have..."
"This is kinda gross."
"No it isn't," Sasuke told his friend. "For every innocent life he took, for every village he destroyed, this is what he deserves."
Kabuto followed Sasuke's gaze. With great effort he lifted his arms and watched, disbelieving, as his skin bubbled and paled. His bones twisted and cracked. The snake protruding from his abdomen uttered a dying hiss, smoke rising from the withering creature. His legs could no longer support him and he crumpled under the searing agony attacking his body. Though his vision was failing, Kabuto searched for the blurred figure of Uchiha Sasuke. "Wha...What is this?"
Futon: Kazekiri no jutsu - Wind Release: wind cutter technique
Sabaku Taiso - Sand waterfall Imperial Funeral
Wow...even I can't believe how long it's been since I updated. I suppose the job change and moving played a part in that.
Yes, it has been a while, but I hope you'll stick around just a bit more.
The next chapter is already in the works.
Thank you all so much for your continued support!