Hey, this is the companion fic for Philos Adelphos, Mimesis. They'll have the same first chapter, cause I don't want to assume you've read the other. So here's the first ch. of Philos. If you've read it, go ahead and jump to ch. 2 for the beginning of Mimesis. Cheers.
"Urgh, it's not enough. What are we gonna do?" Naruto fretted. He stared down at the mess that was his former teammate. He'd done this; punched a hole through his best friend's stomach from behind, using a Rasengan, no less. But unlike him, Sasuke wouldn't be shaking this one off. Not that he'd had a choice; no frontal attacks would work on the Sharingan.
His sage speed and kawarimi with his clones had held out surprisingly well against Amaterasu although the entire area was alight. He had a clone using Fuka Hoin to seal up the black flames, but it was slow going. Sasuke had managed to hit him with it once, but his Jinchuuriki cloak had been enough to protect him until he could seal away the flames. His Rasenshuriken had stood up to Susano'o and he'd wondered exactly how Sasuke intended to win this fight considering that HE at least still had an ace up his sleeve.
But he wasn't the only one, and that's when he felt it. That if he stayed in the range of Sasuke's eyesight even an instant longer, he would die. He wasn't sure what it was, this foreboding, but as a Jinchuuriki his instincts were sharp, it was one of the useful things he got from the demon including fingernails sharp enough to cut through shinobi armor; not that he'd ever used them; he didn't want to seem like a girl in a cat-fight after all.
But when his instincts blared, he disappeared in a way that couldn't be copied or faked. Or tracked. Nothing but a true teleportation jutsu could accomplish such a feat and he could almost imagine the shock and realization on Sasuke's face as Naruto's Rasengan drilled through his spine and abdomen. And now Sasuke was bleeding out at lightning speed while he could only watch helplessly.
He realized that they'd had an audience though when he saw Juugo and Suigetsu running towards them. Juugo took one look at Sasuke and once again pumped some of his flesh into Sasuke's stomach before turning the man over. When he saw the missing chunk of Sasuke's spine he despaired. There was no way to heal this without him dying.
Naruto stopped fretting when he saw the look on Juugo's face. It was a determined and resolved look that was out of place on a child's face. He looked from Juugo to Sasuke for a second before donning his own solemn look.
Juugo's eyes bugged out.
Naruto looked in the man-cum-boy's eyes and repeated firmly, "Use me. Hurry."
Juugo stared at him for a second before sighing, and facing Naruto. "You need to pick me up or it wont be uniform."
Naruto did as instructed an Juugo's body flared out oddly, surrounding much of Naruto's torso. He could tell that this was draining to the other man, but stayed steady even when he felt the sickening and painful intrusion. Juugo's chest had attached itself to his and was siphoning off his flesh, using a direct tap into his chakra network to reform Naruto's body into a smaller form.
When it was over he was the same size as he was before he had a growth spurt at twelve and Juugo was a man again. Naruto was piteously tiny and it annoyed him to no end, hell he could probably pass for a seven year old if he tried.
Juugo looked at him with a twinge of regret before healing Sasuke and shrinking himself once again. He turned to Naruto as Sasuke's breath started evening out and said with relief, "Thankfully you were compatible with the cursed seal. I think your body adjusted so well because of Kyuubi, but even so, it may take you awhile to regrow."
Naruto was just relieved that he would grow again at all. He knelt down next to Sasuke as he started to wake up, his pain-filled gaze going from dazed to shocked in an instant. Sasuke looked from Juugo to Naruto with wide-eyes, realizing what had happened. He managed a croak.
Naruto just smiled widely, scrunching his eyes closed in the process, "Because you're my best friend. Ever since that day at the dock, I could never just let you die."
Sasuke looked like he'd been slapped, remembering the day himself. He was stunned that Naruto would go so far for such a pointless reason. He didn't bother to say that that day hadn't meant that much to him. It was comforting, to see someone that was alone like he was, but it was only a passing feeling. Something easily forgotten. That Naruto had held on to that moment all this time spoke volumes and for the first time he wondered if he really understood his old team-mate at all.
He'd attacked Naruto with all his hatred, an attack that no-one but Madara could escape, and yet Naruto had defeated him with hardly any effort.
"How?" Sasuke whispered.
Naruto gave him a knowing look, "Kyuubi's hatred no longer holds me back, nor does my own. You can't defeat me while you fight with a mind clouded by hate."
Sasuke sneered habitually, but inwardly considered the words. But-
"Madara-" he began...
"Is a shadow who's hidden from the world for over a century, taking advantage of other people's tragedies in an attempt to return to his former glory. He's a person who has come to care for nothing other than himself. He's worse than Danzo that way. If he had a reason to fight other than greed, it's long gone. Everyone he loved or hated is dead, he only has tools and obstacles now. " Naruto said with a scowl.
Sasuke was abruptly reminded of Itachi's words concerning Madara. Is that really what an Uchiha should be? He could never sacrifice their family like Itachi did. But at least Itachi didn't run away. He made his choices and accepted the consequences.
It still hurt to think of his brother. His kind brother that had been forced to sacrifice everything for the sake of Sasuke and the ninja world. Sasuke didn't want a world that could allow such things to happen and still have so much joy it. If that's how it was, he'd rather destroy everything and make the hypocrites suffer just like his brother did.
But looking at Naruto now, he wondered if that was the only way.
As if reading his mind, Naruto continued, "Love leads to sacrifice, which leads to pain and hatred. Hatred becomes revenge and calls for more sacrifice. It becomes a never-ending cycle of misery and suffering that can only be ended by forgiveness and acceptance.
But accepting the horrors of the world just makes them easier to excuse. Accepting "reality" is just another way of giving into despair and that too leads to pointless sacrifice. To accept your pain and hatred as well as that of others, without giving into it, is the hardest thing. Harder even than forgiveness. A ninja's—no, a human's-purpose is to fight hatred while protecting their precious people. That is the only answer I have."
Naruto concluded his words solemnly, gazing into Sasuke's eyes in the most direct way he could remember ever being looked at. Hearing such words from a person who looked to be all of seven years old was disconcerting, but the boy still carried Naruto's presence, which had become stronger than ever.
Sasuke wanted to ignore Naruto's words, but could almost hear his brother's voice in his head saying, 'reality is perception, and perception is flawed', but if reality was broken, then what was the truth? Kisame had taken a shine to Sasuke after he'd joined Akatsuki, maybe because Itachi had been his partner. Kisame once mentioned casually that the reason he followed Madara was because the man had never lied to him; a priceless commodity in the ninja world.
Looking at Naruto now, Sasuke realized the same thing; Naruto had never lied to him. And he knew it because he knew Naruto. Madara on the other hand...maybe he didn't lie, but he didn't tell the whole truth either. Sasuke was intelligent enough to know that.
He didn't know whether Naruto was right or not, but he could see that he believed every word he spoke utterly. And as the man in a child's body stood, Sasuke found himself envying the peaceful and certain look on his face. He knew for a fact that he'd never looked like that himself.
Naruto started to turn away before pausing and looking over his shoulder at the man on the ground.
"Maybe, since your're smarter than me, I'll trust you to figure out the rest, teme." Naruto flashed him a foxy grin before turning to Juugo, "Thank you, Juugo. Now take him and get to a safe distance."
Naruto's voice had become full of command and before Sasuke could come up with an answer or a protest, Juugo had grabbed his body and quickly carried him out of the area. He was left staring at his friend's small back as it got further and further away and registered a sharp pain in his chest—that he didn't want to examine too deeply while he was in so much physical agony.
Finally Juugo settled into a spot a fair distance away and they turned to see Madara appear in front of Naruto as if he'd been there the whole time. Naruto didn't seem startled; in fact, he seemed like he'd been expecting Madara to appear the moment Sasuke was safe, which was probably true. Since Sasuke was so important to Madara's plans, it wouldn't do for him to die before synching with Gedo Mazo.
Sasuke knew that Naruto had not only caught him, but also Madara by surprise with his sudden victory, which is why it took so long for the ancient man to intervene. He'd no doubt been arranging some countermeasure against Naruto's jutsu.
Sasuke sent chakra he could barely spare at the moment to his ears to hear their conversation. He was right. Madara had set some sort of time-space barrier; a seal field that would prevent time-space ninjutsu. Risky, but effective. Naruto wouldn't even be able to Kawarimi and with the Mangekyou and the Rinnegan, that gave Madara a definite advantage.
Apparently he came up with it after Naruto's father the Yondaime nearly killed him. Sasuke did a double-take, what? The Yondaime was Naruto's father and Madara was behind the Kyuubi attack. Looks like his brother had been telling the truth after all.
It was then that Sasuke saw one of the most horrifying sights he'd ever witnessed. It was like the night of his parents' death all over again. He felt like the same small child standing outside the door that contained Itachi and his parents' dead bodies. Fear and dread filled him.
The distance was great, but his Sharingan burned the sight into his mind as Naruto smiled. It was a calm, serene smile, completely at odds with the present situation and knowing his friend, Sasuke knew it meant only one thing. Naruto was about to do something stupid. He was about to die.
Madara must have felt it too, because he tried to escape. Because of his barrier however, he'd never make it. Before Madara could escape the seal field, Naruto activated the Kyuubi's chakra, still startlingly white, not red, a seal showing up his torso and down his arms. He went through an unfamiliar set of hand-seals before shouting, "Shiki Fuin!"
A shiver of dread crawled up Sasuke's spine and with the aid of his Sharingan he saw three large, translucent arms with kanji all over them come out of Naruto's stomach. One arm thrust its way into Madara while the other went much further before diving into the foliage and dragging out a twitching Zetsu. The third arm seemed to disappear from the area entirely before reeling in Kabuto.
Sasuke had never seen anything like it although he had heard stories of this Jutsu. He also knew that there was no way for him to stop it now. All he could do was watch. The most horrifying, and strangely gratifying, part was the slow speed at which it happened. Sasuke was watching three of the most powerful ninja alive being slowly dragged toward Naruto. No matter how they struggled they could barely move, there was no way for them to escape even with all their power. It was surreal, to say the least.
What Sasuke didn't see, however, was the way those arms branched out invisibly in thousands of directions. They followed the chakra connecting their prey to others and latched onto them as well. The ninja of the alliance could only watch in awe as every copy of Zetsu they fought froze alongside the undead ninja that Kabuto controlled.
Kakashi froze in recognition at the sight of the Shinigami's arms and widened his eyes in horror, unable, at that moment, to speak and explain the situation to the others. At the same time there were no eyes to witness the statue of Gedo Mazo shake slightly in the grasp of its one true master, the Shinigami.
Sasuke watched as the three men were dragged just outside of Naruto's reach. They convulsed a final time before becoming still. The arms pulled back, dragging out their souls through their stomachs, an evidently excruciating process.
Zetsu was the first to lose the battle, followed shortly by Kabuto. Finally there was only Madara left, struggling against the death god himself. If it were anyone other than Madara, Sasuke would admire their determination, but since the man's hand had been stained by his family's blood, he felt nothing but anticipation.
Just then he felt a wave of nausea and dread and realized that the source of the feeling was coming from Madara. His Mangekyou was focused completely on Naruto, self-preservation instincts starting to overpower his desire for the Kyuubi's power. He couldn't escape while in the Shinigami's grasp, so he settled for attacking Naruto. Amaterasu wouldn't kill him fast enough, especially with the Kyuubi, so Madara employed Kamui.
Sasuke watched the air around his former teammate distort and bit back a warning, knowing it wouldn't be heard. The Kyuubi's chakra became more intense in response. It carried a weight and power to it that was otherworldly, but not malicious like he knew Kyuubi's to be.
The chakra pushed against the rift, defying its pull with its own gravity. As a result of all the chakra it was consuming, though, the rift in space continued to grow until it seemed likely Madara would be sucked into it as well. Madara's eye spun madly as his Rinnegan struggled to force back the gravity that was pulling on him.
Still, despite the unimaginable force bearing down on his small body Naruto stood steady, slowly but surely drawing Madara's soul out of his body. It was a battle of wills and would only be a matter of time before one of them would give in.
The Shinigami now pulled the sword from its maw to reap Madara's soul, but just as it made the cut Naruto's power gave out, Madara's Kamui pulling him into another dimension even as it closed. The Shinigami looked doubly terrifying at being robbed of the soul of its summoner at the last moment before eating Madara's soul in rage, taking Gedo Mazo and its contents back into possession along with it.
The Shinigami disappeared, its work done, and Sasuke slumped with—what? Relief? Exhaustion? Defeat and disbelief? All of the things he'd been trying to accomplish had been rendered obsolete, leaving behind an empty feeling of failure and uselessness.
Naruto had died defeating Madara and saving the world, thereby proving his beliefs. And Sasuke was left with nothing. No closure; the one person who still cared for him had died, at least partially to save him.
What purpose would his existence serve now? What was left for him besides death? He could seek revenge on Konoha, but he had too much honor even after everything he'd done to spit on his best friend's sacrifice (yes, he had no choice now but to admit that Naruto was his friend). And the idea of reviving his clan left a bitter taste in his mouth after everything he'd discovered.
Not that he held Konoha blameless, he could just no longer bring himself to hope for a future in which the Uchiha clan might be unmarred by the actions of himself and Madara, not to mention what was still believed about Itachi. He had shouldered the burden of his clan's twisted fate his entire life and had no desire to pass it on.
So what did that leave him now? Sasuke's arms fell to his sides, brushing against his tattered pants. He felt a large, blunt object protruding from his equipment pouch and wondered how he had failed to notice it. He pulled it out and read the title of the book. The Tale of the Gutsy Ninja.
Sasuke opened it to the middle and saw, of all things, Naruto's name. Eyes, widening, he looked at the back of the book to see that it was written by Jiraiya years before Naruto was born. The dobe must have been named after this character, just as Sasuke was named after Sandaime's father, Sarutobi Sasuke.
Naruto must have slipped this book into his pouch before going to fight Madara. Fighting back his exhaustion, Sasuke settled down to read the book from the beginning, having nothing better left to do. By the time he finished, the pain in his chest was back; the character had been a lot like the real Naruto. The shock of Naruto's victory and death was beginning to wear off, taking the numb calm he'd been feeling with it.
Sasuke wanted to hold onto that calm until he could figure out what he would do now. It was easier to do that when he looked at Madara's corpse. With Naruto's body missing he could almost imagine the dobe to still be alive somewhere, although he knew that that was impossible.
He looked at the book again. He understood now what Naruto meant about "the answer." He'd been referring to the answer to the question this book posed. Was there such a thing as peace? Could people ever truly understand each other? Naruto had said maybe he'd leave finding the answer to Sasuke, but he was not the sort of person to believe in such a thing, much less know how to bring it about.
Just then he heard a croak and looked to see a toad coming from the trees, heading in his direction. He was slightly chagrined to realize that he didn't know the name of any of Naruto's summons besides Gamabunta. It went to show how little time they'd spent together since Naruto received the frog summon. At the dismal realization, Sasuke bit into his lip until it bled; he was NOT going to cry, dammit.
He also noticed that the toad was carrying a large scroll and looked at it quizzically. Naruto had known enough to leave the book with Sasuke, exactly how long had he been planning his own death? It was unlike him to give up, although there was probably no other conceivable way to eliminate all of his enemies at once.
The toad finally reached him and stopped. It was large, not the size of Gamabunta, but taller than a grown human.
"Uchiha Sasuke, I'm Gamakichi, Naruto's favorite summon." The toad puffed up with pride at the last bit.
"He asked me to bring you this if he ended up having to resort to That jutsu." With that, he unrolled the scroll, showing the toad summoning contract. Only Sasuke's hard-earned mask of calm kept him from gaping; a summoning contract was something that was carefully hoarded by ninja, only to be entrusted to their most trustworthy allies. Sasuke hardly thought that he counted.
"He asked that you sign it so that the toads can lend you their support." He waved a webbed hand at the blank space next to Naruto's name.
Sasuke finally lost patience with the absurdity and blurted out, "Are you mad? Why would you give me your contract? Just because he asked you to is no reason-"
Gamakichi interrupted him with another careless sweep of a webbed appendage. "It's plenty reason enough, if Naruto has chosen you to be his successor, then we will honor his last wish. Besides, if you abuse the contract it can be taken away, or we can merely refuse to follow your orders.
We're not like those snake summons, we maintain close ties with out summoners and always have. Still, although we do not know you personally, if Naruto has chosen to trust you we will give you the benefit of the doubt."
After the long speech the toad stood still, staring at Sasuke implacably and waiting patiently for his decision. Sasuke sighed and looked at the contract. It represented more than just acquiring another summon, by signing it he would be acquiescing to Naruto's wishes for him.
The thought rankled, but Sasuke hardly had any other plans. He also knew that there would be a lot of people out for his blood soon as the last member of Akatsuki. It was ironic that the most likely outcome would be the people Naruto sacrificed himself to save being the ones to kill the person he had given his very flesh to keep alive. Sasuke may not have had any idea what he was going to do in the future, but he didn't plan to just die either; he didn't want to hear Naruto's bitching if he joined him too soon in the afterlife.
So he signed the contract and was promptly informed that the toads were going to use a reverse kuchiyose to summon him to Myobokuzan to talk with the Great Toad Sage himself. Feeling his strength coming to an end, he quickly told Juugo to get to the hideout and await further orders while he waited with impatience to be reverse summoned. The last thing he saw before he passed out was a small old toad standing in front of some of the weirdest (purple) plant-life he'd ever seen.
"Welcome to Myobokuzan, Sasuke-chan."