The sun dipped behind the orange cliffs of Konoha, turning the five hokage rock carvings into dark masks against the pink clouds. Below, the lights in the village started to glow, speckled across a few areas at first but gradually they spread right to the edges of the black forest, and as the night deepened the lanterns grew brighter. Naruto sighed.

It would have to be tomorrow, he knew that. There was no way to avoid it. And he didn't really want to leave it any longer. She would only become angrier which, from what Jiraiya had told him, seriously endangered his life. But the assigned mission this time…

Naruto gritted his teeth and closed his eyes.

How can they ask me to do this? How can they ask anyone to do this?

A chilling laugh rumbled through his mind. Scared? It cackled. That's not like you, boy.

"Not now. Get lost you damn fox."

It laughed harder in reply, almost hysterical. I thought this was what you wanted boy. Isn't it? To have your power…acknowledged? The demon went quiet, waiting.

Naruto didn't answer. Usually he would shout back at the Kyuubi, remind that fox that he wasn't a weak coward. That he'd trained hard, so hard, to gain the respect of each person in this village and until now he was finally getting there. People would finally believe him when spoke of his dream.

But this was pointless. It already knew all that.

For the first few years, Naruto had constantly fought with the Kyuubi. The demon fox was a fiery evil that had burned away the existence of thousands long before Naruto was even born. Always wanting to take control and blaze through everything, burn it all.

It was a slow process but along the way this furious aura had calmed. The Kyuubi even lent its power to Naruto willingly at times, which proved key to gaining the village's trust. Although this malice wasn't completely extinguished, along the way Naruto had come to control the Kyuubi. Yet sometimes it couldn't hold back its cold enjoyment of Naruto's inner battles with his morals, especially when the issue was at hand was so terrible. The demon's true nature raised its twisted head and in the back of his mind Naruto felt it relish at his discomfort.

"Damn fox," he muttered, clenching his fists. "Can't you just fu-"

Behind him someone coughed softly. "Excuse me…"

He spun round, a smile broadening on his face. "Ah, I take it you got the message. I was starting to think you were going to be late like Kakashi always is!"

"What is it?"

"Hey what's that mood for?" Naruto joked and slapped his arm.

He looked at him. Naruto brushed off his shoulder, stepping away slowly.

"Alright alright, I'll get to it. But first, why don't you take off that mask. You're my best friend, right? So you don't need that just now." Naruto grinned, the corners of his eyes scrunching up while he quickly let go of the previous moment's frustrations. The Kyuubi's voice and aura vanished.

In front of him stood a figure cloaked in black. His hood covered the raven hair beneath him and a white mask hid his face. The ANBU member lifted his hand and carefully removed the mask, revealing two fiercely red sharingan eyes.

"Sasuke…" Naruto started, but had to look away. The Konoha lights seemed to require all of his attention.

"What is it?" he repeated.

"There are a few missions I've been given. A-rank. I need you to take them for me," he lied, continuing to stare out at the village below.

Sasuke was silent. Neither of them moved. The pause seemed to stretch on and on, as if to reach out and hold up the lie by its throat, throwing it between them both. Naruto was sure that he knew. Sweat started to form on his brow.

Finally he heard Sasuke move. "I'll get them done. Tell me what they are."

Naruto breathed out. Both relief and an intense guilt shook through his chest.

Holding this back, he turned around and pulled out two sealed scrolls from beneath his own cloak.

"They have to be sent in person to the Kazekage of the Sand Village. Take a team with you." He handed them over. "Thanks Sasuke, I knew I could count on you."

He put his mask back on, nodded once to Naruto, and then disappeared into the night. For a few moments Naruto didn't move. Then the deep growl of the Kyuubi resonated within his mind.

And how do you expect to wipe out the Uchiha clan when you're as weak as this?