Uzu no Kuni- Three Months Later…."We're done!" A lone civilian (or was he a Shinobi?) shouted, receiving hundreds of claps, hollers and whistles. Uproar formed after that single holler. Civilians and Shinobi alike gave each other pats on the backs while women hugged and cheered. Those few children that were present laughed and cheered, bringing a smile to the adults around them. Many were crying tears of happiness while others smiled at their feat.
A sole group of Shinobi stood in silence, staring at the district that was just finished constructing. It may not seem like much but it was a huge achievement considering their numbers. Most of these members had smiles on their faces as they watched their people cheer and celebrate. Naruto grinned at their happiness, turning to Gaara when the younger of the two nudged him. Gaara was looking around, a small smile etched onto his face.
"I can't wait until they get back and see this."
Gaara's words brought Naruto's grin down to a small smile. He hung his head, thinking over his younger brother's words. Yeah, they couldn't wait until the rest of Akatsuki gets here. Sakura, Konan, Itachi, and Zabuza were representing them in Sunagakure, Kirigakure and Konohagakure. They've been gone for two months now. The only communication was whenever Konan would report back to Pein. No letters from them, no message with other Shinobi to let them know how they're holding up. There was little to no communication at all.
And Naruto was worried. Sure, they were strong and they could take care of themselves. However, with Orochimaru on the loose, and those guys who had attacked Konoha and poisoned Sakura were very well hidden. They could be attacked at any given moment. Naruto saw Sakura near Death's threshold twice already. He didn't think he could take seeing her strapped to a hospital bed with all those tubes and wires around her body again. Naruto knew Gaara thought along the same lines but the redhead was better at hiding his emotions than his older brother.
Someone running their way snapped Naruto out of his thoughts. He turned around, along with the rest of the group, and watched as the Shinobi sprinted over to them. He stopped in front of them and doubled over, panting out broken words. The group gave him a few seconds for him to recompose himself. When he straightened up, though still out of breath, he said, "They're here! Pein-sama, help is finally here!"
Naruto's heart began pumping blood faster. His adrenaline levels suddenly rose, making him shift in his place. He glanced at Gaara, whose face was schooled. However, the glint in his green eyes showed the excitement the blonde was feeling.
Pein narrowed his eyes, "Are you sure?"
The Shinobi nodded, his face showing his relief. "Yes, Pein-sama. Itachi-san and Zabuza-san are on their way." With one glance at the finished district, the Shinobi turned back to the Akatsuki group and added, "Everyone is fine and ready to get the rest of the construction underway."
"Good." Pein sent Gaara and Naruto a glance before turning back to the man in front of him. "Take Naruto and Gaara with you, and welcome them." Pein turned to the two Jinchuuriki. "Give them their assignments. Also, tell Itachi and Zabuza that I want them in my office right away." The two nodded and left with the Shinobi.
Sasori, who had long since discarded his puppet Hiroku to lend a helping hand, walked over to the orange headed leader. "Why did you send them?" Sasori asked his voice completely blank. It's not that he didn't care or that he thought little of them. Naruto just wasn't the kind of guy who would stand around, waiting patiently for people to show up. Maybe sending Haku would've been a better option.
Pein watched the kids disappear out of his sight and sighed. "They were both quite worried about their teammate and sensei. Sending them to greet them seemed like the best option. And I'm pretty sure that, despite his actions, Itachi would've liked to see how his two students were holding up." Pein turned back to the people celebrating before raising a hand. This got everyone's attention and the shouts of celebration were halted. "Now, I know this is a huge accomplishment. However, we're not out of the woods yet. Help from other nations have just arrived. I want everyone on their best behaviour and guide them through the tasks. Is this clear?" When he saw that most of the people had agreed, Pein let a rare smile disrupt his usual stoic face. "Good. Let's get this show on the road."
Later That Night- Konohagakure Underground Cells...Soft footsteps were heard coming down the stairs. As usual, all the prisoners jumped to their feet and to the front of the cells. They held out their hands towards the visitor, hoping they'd somehow take pity on them and let them go. The visitor only ignored them until they reached the end of the hallway. The visitor stood in front of the cell holding a Genin captive for treason.
At the mention of his name, the brunette raised his head from his knees. There were bags under his eyes and his hair was dishevelled. He was sitting on the hard bed in the cell with his arms around his pulled up legs and face in his knees. He had chakra-resistant shackles and chains around his feet and wrists. His usually light brown eyes were dull and he was unusually pale, probably due to not having seen the sun for a few months now. Kota frowned at his visitor then turned away in shame.
"What are you doing here, Sakura?"
Sakura's eyes softened at his hoarse voice. Jingling the keys of the cell in one hand, she reached up to undo the lock. Kota turned to her when he heard the click of the lock. He narrowed his eyes as she went in, locking the cell behind her. She walked over to him and sat down in front of him on the floor, her gaze never wavering. They sat in silence for a few moments. The only sound that was heard was the murmurs of the other prisoners talking in whispers. Kota buried his head in his knees again, unable to stand under Sakura's fierce gaze. She broke the silence with one simple word.
Sakura watched as Kota's shoulders tensed. He gripped the side of his thighs tightly and the sound of teeth grinding against each other could be heard in the silence that followed her question. Sakura pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around her legs, sitting the same way he was. She looked away with a frown. She didn't say anything after that. She'll give him the time to collect his thoughts and think about what he'll say. She wasn't going anywhere until she knew what was going on with him. There was no reason for her to shove him away like the rest of Konoha did. She wasn't leaving until she knew he was fine. Being in a cell, being a prisoner at such a young age must've had its toll on him. Sakura won't leave him alone.
Kota grit his teeth when he figured she wouldn't go anywhere. Why was she here? She's just wasting her time with him. He was a low-life. He didn't deserve anything they gave him. Didn't she have somewhere else to be at? The Konoha Shinobi didn't even give him the time of day. Why would she? They were enemies. He was put in here for treason. She shouldn't trust him like this. He could jump her at any moment and injure her.
Kota took a deep breath and calmed down. He listened intently to see what she was up to but only heard her soft breathing. His shoulders relaxed slightly. She was trusting him. She trusted him enough to be confident in him not hurting her. It angered him but that anger turned to happiness. She trusted him. It made him happy. There was someone who cared enough to trust him, despite everything bad he had done. Not even his mother had come down to visit him. His brother Izumo came down once but only stayed five minutes then left, clearly disappointed in him. Sakura's been in here for over fifteen minutes now. She didn't say anything, other than that question, and he was glad for the comforting feeling her silent company brought him. It felt as if she wasn't judging him, and the change of attitude warmed Kota's heart.
Sakura glanced at him when she heard a sob. Her eyes softened when that single sob turned into hiccups and numerous sobs. She smiled and stood up.
Kota heard the movement and he flinched but kept on sobbing and crying. A hand landed on his shoulder, making him look up. He was greeted by a small smile. He hiccupped, some of his brown bangs falling over one of his eyes. Sakura noticed his hair had gotten longer and he now definitely looked like his older brother. She reached up and brushed those stray bangs out of his eye, that small smile still on her face. Despite the situation, Kota found himself blushing slightly, turning his head away some.
Sakura seemed used to the reaction as she ran her fingers through his hair. She sat down by him, withdrawing her hand. "Kota," He turned to her, the blush disappearing, "I'm not here to shove you away or rub our victory in your face. I'm here to make an offer." Sakura explained, leaning back against the wall. Kota nodded his understanding, wiping his tears away. "I want you to join Akatsuki."
Kota's eyes widened. He knew about Akatsuki. Orochimaru had been in the group a few years back but was kicked out because he wasn't into the same cause the rest of the group was supporting. Orochimaru and Akatsuki have been enemies since then. But then, if they were enemies, why would Sakura want him to join Akatsuki when he had been one of Orochimaru's spies?
Seeing the internal battle in his eyes and facial expression, Sakura decided to explain her reasoning. "You were one of Orochimaru's spies. You betrayed the village. You'll either be executed or, if the council is in a good mood, you'll spend the rest of your life in here." Kota lowered his gaze, his shame being heavily reflected in his eyes. Sakura continued, "The entire village knows of your treason. If by some chance you're let go and back into the ninja ranks, who will trust you? You were Orochimaru's spy, why would they help you if you were a key player in the Suna-Oto invasion? No one will want to be associated with a kid that had been easily manipulated by the enemy."
Kota frowned and looked away. He couldn't help it. Orochimaru had threatened with killing his family. What could he have done at such an age? Beat a Sannin when he was only just starting in the Academy? He'll admit, it was a mistake wandering that far into the woods that night. But he accepted Orochimaru's offer because he wanted to protect his family. Nothing else could've been done about it.
Sakura's hand on his shoulder snapped him out of his thoughts. He looked back at her and nodded at her to keep talking. Sakura let her eyes roam him before continuing. "I assume you know how Akatsuki works, right?" At his nod, she smiled. "I talked to the council. Under certain circumstances, you'll be allowed back into the ninja ranks." Kota's eyes lit up but Sakura shook her head to keep him from interrupting. "You'll be allowed into Ame's ninja ranks. I've seen your potential as a Kenjutsu master. With time, maybe you'll become an official Akatsuki member."
Kota stared at her. "What?"
Sakura looked up at the ceiling, "You'll be working for Akatsuki under probation. If we see that you're good enough, you'll be allowed into our actual ranks. It'll take years but we can work things out. Now, it's up to you whether you want to take it or not-"
"I'll take it!" Kota said, untangling himself and standing up. Sakura smiled at his enthusiasm and stood up as well.
"Good. I'll come by tomorrow so we can go to Ame." Sakura said and started to turn to leave but a hand grabbing her wrist stopped her. She looked back to see Kota gripping her hand, a serious look on his face. He slowly sat down, still holding her wrist captive. Sakura followed his movements, sitting down on the bed by him. "What's up?"
Kota frowned. "Orochimaru had this plan after invading Konoha. He was planning another coup d'état but on Amegakure. He wanted revenge on Akatsuki for beating and humiliating him."
Sakura pulled her hand away, her eyes narrowing on him. She turned away. 'I guess news doesn't travel through here. The attack on Ame was three months ago.' Sakura turned back to him. "I see. And does he plan on doing it alone or with help with other countries like he did with Oto and Suna?" Kota was the only source of information at the moment. How they didn't think of coming to him sooner, she didn't know. But if this was an opportunity of finding out who did this and why, she sure as hell wasn't going to let it pass.
"Yeah. Orochimaru had made treaties with some people but I'm not sure where they were from. I wasn't allowed to know much because I was only just starting as a spy."
Sakura flicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth, making a clicking sound. "Do you know their names, at least?"
"One of them is Aoki Taichi and the other is Miyazaki Norio. There was also this other unknown guy. Rumour around has it that he wears a mask with one eye-hole."
The kunoichi frowned, searching in her memory bank if those names sounded familiar. Nothing came up and she glanced up at Kota. She stood up sharply, 'I need to inform Konan-nee-chan. Maybe she knows something about them.' Sakura turned to Kota and lowered her head. "The coup already happened, Kota. Ame was attacked three months ago. We had no idea who did it but Orochimaru was the top suspect on our list. Thanks for clearing that up for us." Kota stood up and frowned. "Anyway, I'll come and get you out of here tomorrow. I'll bring a new set of clothes. Hopefully, you haven't lost any of your fighting skills."
"Of course not!"
Sakura grinned. "Good, 'cause you have a lot of work to do."
Uzu no Kuni- Next Week...Sakura looked up from the scroll in her hands as soon as she heard the tent open. Naruto came out with his hands behind his head. He sat down by her and shrugged. "I didn't detect any seals on his body. Inoichi said he didn't see any in his mind, either. Let's face it, Kota's clean." Naruto finished with another shrug. Sakura nodded then went back to the scroll.
Naruto's arms wrapping around her waist interrupted her reading. He kissed the crown of her head. "I'm still mad, y'know." Sakura sighed at his words.
Last week, when the first party of helpers from the allied nations came, only Suna and a number of Konoha ninja came. The official Konoha caravan had been withheld because of transportation problems and arrived yesterday. Naruto had been expecting Sakura to be in the first party because she was supposed to be with them at the time but she remembered about Kota and she had to help him in one way or another. She had then been assigned to the second part of the caravan along with Konan and other Konoha Shinobi. Naruto had been pissed but relieved that she was fine. Apparently, he still holds a grudge against her for that, though.
"Sorry, I'll make it up to you later." Sakura leaned up and pecked his lips before turning back to the scroll in her hands. Naruto smiled and pulled her closer, resting his chin on her shoulder. He studied the outline with her in complete silence, enjoying the time he was spending with her. Sakura leaned into him and smiled. It was moments like these that she always wanted to remember.
Someone cleared their throat. The two slowly turned their heads to the side. Kakashi was standing there with a bored look on his face – well, the visible part of his face. He jerked his head towards the centre of the construction site, where the main tents were at. Naruto let go of her and followed Kakashi with Sakura right beside him.
They entered the biggest tent. They saw that the entire Akatsuki group was there, as well. Shizune, Baki and Jiraiya were standing near Pein, looking sadly at them. Naruto looked around with his eyebrow raised. "What's up?" He asked and turned around when he heard the tent open. Gaara walked in with Kurenai, the redhead walking over to his squad to stand by them.
Pein sighed and stood up from his seat. He locked eyes with the three youngsters. "I'm afraid that Akuma no Buntai will be separated at this time."
It took less than a millisecond for that to click inside of their heads. "What!" Naruto and Sakura yelled out, Gaara deciding to stay quiet and glare at his leader.
Konan shushed them with a glare. Pein ignored their reactions and turned to the three standing by his side. "It's not permanent. I'm separating you three so you could work with other teachers under other circumstances. You'll be leaving Uzu no Kuni to train with them," Pein gestured to Jiraiya, Shizune and Baki, "for three years. They'll be your masters from there on. Any questions?"
"Yes! Why the hell do we have to go? I want to help rebuild Uzushio! I don't want to go travel the world while I could be helping rebuild my home!" Naruto shouted out furiously. He was glaring at Pein intensely.
Pein shook his head. "We'll be fine without your help. I need for you to get stronger. With the threat of Orochimaru rising, along with this new unknown group, we need to be prepared. They poisoned Sakura and attacked Ame for a reason, and we have to be careful from now on."
Naruto clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth and crossed his arms in defeat. Pein sighed and gestured to the three again. "Naruto, you'll be going with Jiraiya ('Tch, I knew it.' Naruto thought, rolling his eyes). Gaara, you'll be going with Baki and Shizune will be staying here to train Sakura. You two will be leaving in an hour. Say your goodbyes in the meantime. Good luck." Pein nodded at them. They nodded back and left the tent with their heads down.
The three looked each other at the same time then headed over to their make-shift home. Inside the main tent, Itachi turned to Jiraiya and Baki. He handed each of them a scroll with different designs on them. "I only have two requests. First, give this to them early in their training. Hopefully, their Bijuu will know what they are and help them with it. Second, look after them. Neither of them is mentally stable."
Baki frowned. "What do you mean?"
Itachi ignored his question and started walking out of the tent. He stopped just before the opening and looked back over his shoulder at the two. "If anything were to happen to either of them," His eyes hardened, changing into his Mangekyou Sharingan, "I'll kill you." The Uchiha turned his back, walking out of the tent.
Uzushiogakure Entrance- One Hour Later….."Alright, kid, say your goodbyes. We're leaving. I need to keep my research up." Jiraiya giggled as he turned away from the scene and started walking away slowly while rubbing his hands together with a perverted grin on his face.
Naruto glared at his back and childishly stuck his tongue out at him before crossing his arms. Sakura's snicker made him smile and look over at his teammates. His smile fell and he looked down at the ground. "I guess this is goodbye." His voice sounded hurt and broke at the end of the sentence.
Naruto glanced up, only to see a hand in front of him. He raised his head, seeing Gaara holding his hand out to him. Gaara smiled slightly. "Try not to hurt yourself too much out there." The redhead joked lightly, and Naruto chuckled. The blonde grasped his hand, wrapping his fingers around the younger boy's wrist.
"I'm no stranger, Gaara, we don't do this. We do this." Naruto said as he suddenly pulled on Gaara's wrist, sending him tumbling forward. Naruto wrapped his arms around the momentarily stunned redhead and chuckled. "We're bros. We don't shake hands."
Gaara blinked several times then grinned and embraced the blonde back. "Of course, baka." Naruto grinned and let go of him, ruffling his hair lightly. Gaara glared at him and punched his shoulder. Naruto winced and punched is shoulder back. The two started glaring at each other intensely, an unspoken battle going on between them. This went on for a few seconds before smiles broke out on their faces and they first-pumped. "I'll miss you,"
Naruto smiled even more. "I'll miss you, too, Gaara."
Gaara nodded then stumbled when Sakura grabbed him by the front of his shirt to pull him close to her. "Be careful out there," Sakura whispered in his ear, tightening her arms around his neck. Gaara's gaze softened and wrapped his arms around her waist.
"I will. Love you,"
Sakura pulled him closer, biting her lip to prevent from crying. This was the first time they were going to be apart for a long period of time. It was going to hurt not to see them. "I love you, too, Gaara." She pulled back a bit and leaned down to kiss his cheek before ruffling his hair.
Gaara huffed in frustration at having his hair touched but smiled when she winked at him. The redhead then started walking over to Baki, who was waiting for him. He stopped in his tracks, looked over his shoulder and smirked. "You two better be stronger when I come back."
Naruto grinned and pumped his fist in the air. "Are you kidding? I'm so kicking your ass when we come back!"
Sakura smirked then flipped him off. "Don't you dare underestimate us, Gaara. It'll be the end of you."
Gaara chuckled and turned back to Baki, raising his hand in a lazy wave as the two started to walk away. Naruto and Sakura smiled on after them until they were out of sight.
They turned to each other and chuckled. "He'll be fine." Naruto said, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her close. He brought their foreheads together as she placed her hands on his forearms. Sakura nodded in understanding, locking eyes with him.
Naruto swooped down to place his lips and hers swiftly. "I love you." He muttered against her lips before pulling away.
Sakura tugged at the hair on the back of his neck and smiled before resting her forehead on his shoulder. "I love you, too, Naruto."
The blonde looked about ready to say something else but Jiraiya interrupted him. "Come on, Gaki, we'll miss the boat!" Jiraiya shouted over his shoulder. Naruto sighed in frustration before looking back at his girlfriend.
"I'll miss you. Be careful. I don't want a repeat of…last time." Naruto said, and Sakura noticed his voice broke at the end. Her gaze softened and she pulled him in for an embrace.
"I'll be careful, I promise." Sakura whispered in his ear as his arms wrapped around her waist again. He pulled her close, kissed the side of her head then pulled away from the embrace. Naruto smiled at her then turned around to follow Jiraiya. He stopped after a few steps before turning around and running back to her. The blonde leaned down and pecked her lips quickly.
"Look after the village for me," Sakura nodded at his request before leaning up to press their lips together, more firmly this time.
Naruto groaned into the kiss. He pressed harder against her before pulling away and running over to where Jiraiya had stopped to wait on him. Sakura snickered when the two started bickering. She turned around and started heading to the centre of the village to help out any of those who needed help in the construction.
Unknowingly, the three Chunin had the same thought running around in their heads.
'We'll be back together. No one will tear us apart.' (A/N: I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'M SORRY! The ending is shitty, I know. I suck at making endings/goodbyes. I actually had to erase this whole chapter and write it again because I didn't like how it came out. I'm sorry if it's so rushed and crappy, and for taking so long. Anyway, onto important news. Yes! This is the last chapter of this part of the Akuma no Buntai series. I'm still debating whether it'll have the same title (Akuma no Buntai: Blah, blah, blah, blah) or if it'll have another name. I guess we'll find out when I have the first chapter up. Another thing is that it'll probably take a while (and I do mean a LONG while) to put the story up. But be expecting the first chapter to be about Gaara and solely Gaara. Yes, you must read it. It's important for the plot. Anyway, I apologize for the wait. I didn't think it'd take me this long to update. Sorry. Bye! Until the next Instalment! 7th Creature)
(A/N: I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'M SORRY! The ending is shitty, I know. I suck at making endings/goodbyes. I actually had to erase this whole chapter and write it again because I didn't like how it came out. I'm sorry if it's so rushed and crappy, and for taking so long.
Anyway, onto important news. Yes! This is the last chapter of this part of the Akuma no Buntai series. I'm still debating whether it'll have the same title (Akuma no Buntai: Blah, blah, blah, blah) or if it'll have another name. I guess we'll find out when I have the first chapter up. Another thing is that it'll probably take a while (and I do mean a LONG while) to put the story up. But be expecting the first chapter to be about Gaara and solely Gaara. Yes, you must read it. It's important for the plot.
Anyway, I apologize for the wait. I didn't think it'd take me this long to update. Sorry.
Bye! Until the next Instalment!