This is it! The much anticipated sequel to Worlds Apart has arrived! It is worth mentioning that you need not read that story to understand this one, though it may be helpful. IMPORTANT NOTE: This chapter switches from first person POV to third person and back to first person at the end. Thank you so much for your patience as I ended the school year; it's always crazy! Now that I am into my relaxed summer, I have more time to focus on Worlds Collide and map out the story. As always, enjoy.
I thought of you as the dark, suffocating tunnel swallowed me whole. I was sure, in that moment, that I would never see you again. Would you understand, I wondered, why I had done what I had done—that it had to be done?
But then... No, you would never know what had happened.
It would be that thought, in the years to come, that would torture me the most. You would think that I was dead, but I wasn't, only a lifetime away. Eventually, I would learn to trap these thoughts in a tiny, dark corner of my mind and focus only on survival, on making sure he didn't find me or the possession I carried that he so desperately sought. But it would take years, many narrow escapes, and countless nights without sleep for me to reach that grim acceptance, that state of utter hopelessness in which I couldn't bear to care any longer. The weight of the pain might have crushed me otherwise. And I had to survive.
But that would come at a point far in the future, and to understand the reasons behind my suffering, you must return to where the suffering began.
It was a beautiful day for traveling, she thought, especially knowing that she was going to help people for this mission. Their neighbor, the Waterfall Country, had asked for assistance from their ally, the Fire Country, in some of their outer lying villages. Recent storms had destroyed many of them, leaving some dead, but hundreds wounded and sick and homeless. Obligingly, Konoha had sent many of its warriors to help their long-standing ally. Rin Hayata was part of the third team to embark on this journey to help the Waterfall Country's citizens. She was invaluable because of her medical knowledge, and more recently, her fighting abilities. She wasn't nearly as good as some of Konoha's best, but she could more than hold her own if she had to.
Her newfound strength and skill was rooted from a promise she made to herself three years previously after a mission which only three other people knew existed. The events that had occurred in that adventure inspired her to become a better kunoichi; she knew for certain now that she wouldn't have to constantly rely on others to protect her. Months of training and honing of skills had led her to this mission: she was leading her own team. It was a four-man squad, which was actually comprised of two boys and two girls. They were all relatively close in age and got on well, though Rin wasn't especially familiar with any of them. Hikaru and Sora were the boys—the first was a strong-willed yet easy-going chunnin, the second was of the same rank but a medic in training, who would be performing small healings on his own and assist Rin whenever she needed help with more difficult processes. The girl, Akari, was a newly promoted jonin and skilled taijutsu practitioner. She and Rin were the only two jonin on the team, Rin herself having passed the exam a short while ago.
It was to be a relatively mundane mission, considering the horrors all of them had experienced during the Nine-Tails attack and the war. Rin especially had suffered during those times, losing one of her best friends and her sensei. She had been the first to comfort Minato and Kushina's baby boy, to pick him up and cradle him when everyone else was too afraid to even go near him. But she had been Kushina's caretaker throughout most of her pregnancy; she had known all the specifics about the Nine-Tails's containment and was no more afraid of Naruto than she had been of his mother. It was him that her thoughts meandered around as she glided through the leafy trees near Konoha's border.
Naruto was now a precocious near-three-year old, who loved nothing more than to run around and stir up whatever trouble he could get himself into. He looked more and more like his father every day; the only differences in looks between them were age and three lines on each of Naruto's cheeks. He discovered on his second birthday that ramen was the greatest thing he had ever tasted, and he constantly craved it. However, she made sure that he ate plenty of fruits and vegetables too. He had more energy than anyone she had ever known, and she had started to see a growing amount of determination at his command.
She took care of him as best she could. She couldn't be his mother or his father, but she considered herself to be more like his big sister, and loved him like a little brother. She was only a little worried about leaving him; he had been fine without her before when she went on other missions, but this one would be the longest yet—two weeks. She had called in a favor and the Nara family had agreed to take him while she was gone; their son Shikamaru was the same age and was one of the few children who didn't shy away from Naruto. They weren't really friends either; Rin suspected Shikamaru considered Naruto to be something like an interesting science experiment. But she trusted the family to look after him.
Speaking of looking after…
"Hikaru!" she called over her shoulder, "Everything okay back there?"
They were traveling in a diamond formation: she was in front, Akari was behind her to the left, Sora to the right, and Hikaru brought up the rear. Usually, the vibrant chunnin would be chattering away or humming or doing something to make noise. But for the past few minutes, it had been oddly silent.
Upon hearing no returning answer, she turned in midair to find Sora and Akari still in formation, looking bored and tired… but Hikaru was gone. Immediately, she stopped on the next available tree limb; the other two followed suit on either side of her.
"He's missing," said Akari unnecessarily, turning to gaze back the way they had come. Rin couldn't help a feeling of trepidation wash over her. This could be bad.
"No he's not," Sora shook his head, "He's probably just—"
Suddenly, Hikaru dropped down so that his nose was inches from Rin's, hanging from his feet from the branch above them.
"Gotcha!" he said, grinning from ear to ear.
She didn't flinch but frowned at his antics, struggling with her expression to keep it that way. Obito used to pull similar stunts on her; "gotcha" was one of his favorite words. She would laugh every time. But now, from a team leader's perspective, the joke was a bit annoying.
"Hilarious," she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "Are you done behaving like an immature genin now?"
The grin fell from his face and turned into a pout. "Someone's cranky today. Relax, huh? I was just having some—"
He stopped mid-sentence as if someone had ripped the air from his lungs. Rin watched the life drain from his sparkling eyes. For a split-second, she refused to accept the information her eyes were feeding her brain… until a kunai whizzed past her left ear.
"MOVE!" she bellowed the unnecessary command at her remaining two teammates, who had already dodged the oncoming projectiles. Hikaru's lifeless body fell into her arms. Though it would have been more efficient to let him fall, she couldn't let him crash to the ground. She quickly dropped down to the forest floor. Though she looked, no further weapons or enemies followed her. Whoever the assailant was wanted to keep surprise on their side.
She laid Hikaru's body at the base of the tree, seeing that he had taken a kunai to the back of the head. She realized that if he hadn't been there, the weapon would have struck her, right between the eyes.
Diagonally above her, a giant fireball bloomed in the tree tops. Seconds later, Akari landed at her side. Blood stained her shoulder where she had been cut.
"I thought I saw him," she said, as Rin silently put a hand on her wounded shoulder, her eyes raking the tree tops. Healing chakra gathered in her palm and the cut was healed instantly.
"Where's Sora?" she asked as she dropped her arm, not daring to call his name.
"Here," he suddenly dropped down on Akari's other side. He immediately went over to Hikaru.
"He's dead," Rin informed him tonelessly, but she couldn't keep a slight quiver from her voice. "We have to keep moving." There would be time to grieve later, but they had to make sure they had a later first. They were out of their league here. Whoever the enemy was had gotten close enough to them without being noticed, and she and Akari had particularly acute senses. And even now that she knew he was following them she still couldn't sense him at all.
"We can't just leave him here!" Sora shouted as she was about to start running. She turned around.
"We'll come back for him," she replied. "But it wouldn't make much sense to give up our lives for someone who is already dead." The realization washed over her and she felt sick. It was her first mission as a leader and already she had gotten someone killed. "We have to go." she choked out.
She hadn't taken two steps before the scream pierced her ears.
Suddenly, she felt the enemy's chakra. It nearly overwhelmed her senses with its explosiveness. It was dense, weighing her down physically and mentally. How had he been hiding something this massive? It was only instinct that allowed her to turn around and fling a kunai at the source.
He smiled as he caught the weapon in his giant's hands. He had to be around six and a half feet tall, she guessed. Again she tried to process how he could be so strong and so hugeand move so fast. He twirled the kunai in one hand as if it were no more than a toy. Long greasy black strands of hair hung to his shoulders around his mottled face, which was pockmarked and scarred in several places, probably from battle. He would look completely feral, except that he wore a tan shinobi vest and deep green pants beneath a dark red cloak. He had no identifying headband or any indications that he was acting on behalf of another shinobi village. In fact, his clothes seemed mismatched, as if he had collected them over time. But what struck her most was the glint in his violet eyes. Madness reigned there.
He had grasped Sora around the neck with his other hand. The young medic struggled for breath. Hikaru's body lay behind him like a discarded doll.
"Give it to me," intoned the attacker. His voice seemed to rattle around Rin's brain. It sounded like two boulders grinding together, precariously held over her head. Then all at once they were falling around her. Crushing anything in their path. Destroying all life.
"What do you want?" she asked steadily, blinking a few times to clear her thoughts. Anything she had would be useless to this man, she thought. A pack full of medical supplies, some dried food, and water— there was nothing that she carried that was worth attacking four shinobi over.
She tried to focus on him. She realized that the giant standing before her was actually a shadow clone. Even though he was making his appearance known, he still went to the trouble of producing a clone to confront them. Why? Where was the host?
"The scroll. Give me the scroll," his impatience seeped into his chakra and the weight of it pressed down even further on her senses.
Scroll? What scroll? She didn't have—
She barely had time to register the shock in her expression when Akari rushed for Sora from her right. They were at least six feet from him; he could easily maneuver out of the way. The connections spread like wildfire across her brain. He wouldn't move. A shadow clone. A shadow clone. Why use a shadow clone? He wouldn't move. The final connection clicked.
"Akari! Get out—!" she screamed.
He smiled again before sparks raced across the clone's chest and it exploded. She watched as Sora and Akari were engulfed completely by orange flame. She felt her body being lifted from the ground from the force of the blast and she sailed through the air.
He used a shadow clone in order to launch an attack that would injure him otherwise.
And she had a scroll. She thought only three other people knew.
Obviously, she was wrong.
She crashed into something hard and fell into unconsciousness.
She judged it wasn't long after she passed out that she came back to her unmerciful reality. The unmistakable smell of burning foliage and flesh assailed her senses. She coughed as she pushed herself up into a roughly seated position. Burns covered her arms because she had reached up to protect her face, and a trickle of blood fell down her cheek from a head wound when she had crashed into the nearest tree. She could feel several burnt toes on her right foot, but those on her left were unscathed. There were a few other bumps and bruises, and everywhere felt sore, but nothing was broken; there were no life threatening injuries. It was nowhere near the damage she should have taken. Somehow, he had controlled the blast, leaving her alive, and—
She finally noticed that their bodies were gone. Only a pile of ashes remained, of all three of them, along with several overturned trees. Her mind blanked, and she knew she was in shock. Her logical brain had diagnosed her injuries and avoided emotional pain. She was frozen.
The attacker stood a few feet from her, surveying the damage.
"The scroll," he whispered. Still she heard him; the silence was almost heavier than his chakra.
How did he know about the scroll? Or was he under orders from someone else? Still, she had never told anyone about it, or the mission. Had he been watching her? Could he have somehow pieced it together?
Numbly, she shrugged off her backpack, which was still intact despite her injuries. Air assaulted the burns on her arms, making moving at all excruciatingly difficult, but she was only half aware of the pain. From a smaller side pocket she removed the scroll: it contained the parameters of a completed mission from three years ago. It was also a key to another world.
That world was controlled by wizards, not shinobi.
She had kept it after the mission was complete; there was no way it could be reactivated, she was told. It was harmless and useless. She threw it on the ground before her, forcing him to come pick it up. She shrugged the pack back over her shoulders. If he came close enough, she could try to take him off guard while he was distracted by his precious, worthless scroll. Her hand fell to her side as she watched him approach. Her finger tips brushed the handle of a long wooden stick just protruding from her kunai holster. A wizard's weapon, the wand—purchased at Ollivander's in Diagon Alley. It was simple, made of Rosewood, fourteen and a half inches long with a winding spiral etched in it from the tip to the handle. The handle itself was unadorned save for a section no longer than a centimeter at the end, shaped like a tiny, intricate leaf. Its core was made of unicorn hair, Olivander had said. The wandmaker told her that it was one of the most beautiful wands he had ever sold, beautiful because of its simplicity, yet also its intricacy. It had a gentleness about it, he said. But, of course, even the gentle rose has thorns.
He wouldn't expect the wand, she thought. But if he knew about the scroll, what else did he know? It didn't matter; it was the only chance she had. Her brain was too shock-addled to come up with a better plan, and even if she did, she doubted she'd have the energy to complete it. Maybe she could fire off a spell at him before he could kill her. He leaned down to pick up the scroll.
As soon as his hand grasped it, it began to glow from the amount of chakra he poured into it. Again, the chakra's intensity overwhelmed her senses. Her head began to pound, and it was all she could do to stay conscious. She realized that she probably sustained a concussion during the explosion. She shielded her eyes, squinting at the white light the scroll was now emitting.
It was impossible; he couldn't activate it through sheer power. But no sooner than she thought this than something shifted in the space around her. She couldn't tell what it was; it didn't feel like chakra, but something definitely changed. Making a split-second decision, without really contemplating the consequences, she lunged forward and grasped her attacker's ankle.
Two seconds later, they both disappeared entirely.
The portkey was activated.
That's how I became trapped in the wizarding world, a place that just hours before the death of my squad I was sure I would never see again. I have the scroll that brought me and that monster here. I am in constant hiding from him. I would burn the scroll, but it is also my only link to my home, and to you. I am too selfish to destroy it. But I will do so if I am faced with imminent death, as any shinobi would.
I have written this story dozens of times, and I will write it dozens more to keep the truth ingrained in my memory. Hopefully, should I die, this account will preserve the truth. I have not contacted any of our friends here because I am afraid I would put them and their families in danger. Even they would be no match for him, though I have heard so many tales of their bravery. They defeated the Dark Lord, but this man is in an entirely different category of strength and evil. He has started to gather some followers, those that do not understand his power, themselves only possessing half of the ingredients to that power. He has the most volatile chakra that I have ever seen. Any wizard that goes up against him will almost certainly be killed.
On another note, I happened to see a calendar in a store window the other day as I was passing through a small town. I had noticed that it was beginning to get colder again, but gave no thought as to what the actual month was. It just so happens that on the day I am writing this, you turn 26 years old. Though you will almost certainly never read this, I feel obligated to say it anyway. Happy birthday, Kakashi. Wherever you are, I hope you're happy.
To anyone who may be reading this, I only know the man hunting me as Rokuro. He is a powerful shinobi, and a ruthless killer. For almost the last eight years I have been trying to find a way to take him down, and I have failed. But I'm not dead yet.
My name is Rin Hayata. I am a Konoha shinobi. The man chasing me will never stop looking for me until he finds the portkey in my possession, the only connection to our world. I know I'm the only one that can stop him, but I am not strong enough. I'm still not strong enough. So I run, and I'll keep running, and he will never find his way back to Konoha.
I swear it on my life.
Thank you for reading; I would appreciate it if you leave your thoughts, questions, concerns, etc in a review. Suggestions are always welcome too; tell me what you'd like to see in the story! It all helps me continue with the plot. Next chapter: Kakashi, Naruto, Sakura, and Sasuke enter into our tale.