Chapter Nine: Shattered by Goals
Sasuke's knees felt the soft dirt as she hid herself amongst the shrubbery of her family estate. It was a humid, sunny day and the young five-year old was covered in dirt and grime, but she couldn't be happier.
'He'll never find me!'
Her surroundings abounded with the sounds of wildlife, and Sasuke's ears picked up the frantic chirps of a group of baby birds, no doubt calling out to their mother for their meal. Soon, the sounds stopped, which alerted Sasuke that a presence had disturbed them.
She crouched lower to the ground, her small back brushing up against the leaves that obstructed her tiny form from view. She thought she had heard the tell-tale sounds of twigs snapping and sandals on soft dirt.
Her heart was beating fast and her mind raced when she saw, through the leaves, a familiar pair of blue sandals in front of her hiding place, standing completely still. It must have been seconds, but to Sasuke it seemed like hours, before the sandals moved away from the bush that Sasuke was hiding in. 'That was close!' Sasuke breathed a sigh of relief, releasing the tension that ran throughout her whole body.
"Never relax, even when you think the danger has passed."
Sasuke's heart skipped a beat as her black eyes peered through the leaves once more in an effort to locate the owner of the voice, but he was nowhere to be found. It was clear that she had been found, but she felt rooted to the spot, frozen with fear. She loved playing hide and seek because, if enough time had passed, the game became more exciting with each second that ticked by.
Sometimes, if enough time had passed, she felt like it wasn't a game.
As an Uchiha, she was familiar with the legacy of her clan and had already started her training as a shinobi. Because of this, whenever she played hide and seek, it was very much a test of her skills as well as a game of sport.
"I'm not there, Sasuke."
The soft-spoken voice sounded like it came from all around her and Sasuke's heart jumped to her throat as she saw, horror-stricken, a pale hand break through the dirt in front of her. It rose higher till it was level with her eyes and tapped Sasuke's forehead with two fingers in a playfully familiar way.
"No fair!" Sasuke pouted as she got out of her hiding place, her usually pale palms stained with dirt, "You said you wouldn't use your Sharingan!"
"Foolish sister," the voice said, "Do you really think that the opponent will do as he has agreed?"
In front of Sasuke, a boy of eleven years of age had sprung from the ground, his eyes blood red in the sunlight. He was pale, as if he spent the majority of his time in doors, and his hands had indicated that he spent more time pouring over books than dirtying his hands with blood. His face, marred by two distinctive lines, had a faint smile.
"Hmph," Sasuke continued to pout, clearly unhappy. She crossed her arms and faced away from her brother, "It's no fun when you use your Sharingan, Itachi!"
Itachi still smiled at the pouting five-year old and said, "I'm training you, Sasuke, it's not supposed to be fun."
"You never seriously train me!" Sasuke turned back to him, her arms still crossed. She glared childishly at her older brother. However, Sasuke knew that she could never seriously be angry at her brother, and her glare broke after a few seconds into a slight smile that mirrored her brother's. The two had a family resemblance. Both had the raven black hair, black eyes, and facial features that typified her clan. However, while Itachi was pale, Sasuke's skin was full of color because she spent most of her time training with her father, at his request.
Sasuke's older brother gave her a look that conveyed amusement, and replied, "Well, maybe I should start. With that being said…" Itachi's eyes flickered to their house, "It's time to eat."
The happy mood that the pair had built up dissipated when Itachi had mentioned this. Ever since he had been inaugurated into the ANBU black ops, Itachi and her father had not been on good terms. Sasuke didn't know what it was that had caused the strain in their relationship and she didn't want to ask.
Her father had always been distant with the girl. It was no secret that when Mikoto, Sasuke's mother, was pregnant, her husband had wanted a boy. He had been talking about it for months leading up to the conception and had even picked out the name for his child, Sasuke. Although she was born a girl, her father had refused to fully accept it and named her Sasuke anyways, despite the complaints of his wife. It was partly because of this attitude towards Sasuke that Fugaku had conscripted Itachi to start training her at the age of five, far earlier than most of her peers.
Itachi, while having a good relationship with Sasuke, was always rather private about his views on people. To his parents, and Sasuke when she was younger, Itachi seemed almost unapproachable. He spent most of his time burying his nose in books, even at the dining table with his family.
This, however, was made worse by the fact that his peers were intimidated by him. Itachi was a prodigy in the ninja arts. He graduated top of the class from the Academy at the age of seven, and at eight, he had fully mastered the Sharingan. Just this year he had been accepted into the ANBU black ops. It was incredible and very few people could believe that such a person could exist, but there he was, walking with his little sister back to the Uchiha house.
When the pair had sat themselves down at the dining room table, Mikoto had served them their meal while Fugaku talked with them about how the training session went.
"It was satisfactory," Itachi informed his father, "She is improving every day. I have no doubt that she will be a ninja worthy of praise someday."
"Well," Fugaku grunted, turning his black, expressionless eyes towards his daughter, "She is an Uchiha."
Sasuke, who had been sitting quietly throughout their exchange, felt her heart plummet. She had thought that the news would please her father, but the shadow of the Uchiha name shrouded her accomplishments from his eyes. However, Itachi winked playfully at his little sister, proving that he doesn't need the Sharingan to have more insight than those around him.
Uchiha Sasuke was exhausted. She held shuriken in her hands, which were dirtied and cut from the hours of training she had been doing. Even though her breath was labored and her clothes were torn and burned badly, her training session was far from over. It was a clear and sunny morning, and Sasuke wasn't going to let this moment slip from her fingers. It had been five days since she had gotten back from the Wave, and it was five days of intense training.
Her mind revisited her fight with Haku, and her fingers tightened dangerously around her ninja tools. She had been horribly outclassed in her last mission. Haku had been faster and much stronger than she had anticipated. If Naruto hadn't come in and intervened, the whole mission would have been a complete failure, and that was something Sasuke still couldn't come to terms with.
If the mission to the Land of Waves taught her anything, it was that Sasuke needed to get stronger. She threw the shuriken at the training post, which was scorched to a crisp. With three thumps, the shuriken embedded themselves deeply in the post, and Sasuke, after catching her breath, walked over to the post to inspect the spread. It was a tight spread, virtually flawless, but the third and final shuriken had not embedded itself quite as deeply as the other two.
That was unacceptable.
Sasuke pulled the shuriken out, and stepped back, ready to throw another salvo when she heard the dampened sound of footsteps walking toward her on the grass. The training grounds were usually deserted at this time, and Sasuke had never encountered anyone here before, so when she had heard the movement of someone else, it gave her pause.
"Sasuke-chan," Inuzuka Kiba said when the Uchiha turned around to confront whoever it was, "Fancy seeing you here, you training as well?" Akamaru barked at the girl and panted as it scampered alongside his master.
Sasuke didn't reply, and turned around to continue her training. While Kiba may certainly be annoying, his presence would not be a threat to her. She readied her shuriken and threw them with lightning fast speed, and pinpoint precision. She put more power in this throw, trying to compensate for the lack of piercing depth that she had encountered her last run.
"Yup, I come here once a week," Kiba said, unfazed at the lack of attention, he yawned and stretched his arms out, "gotta practice with Akamaru here." The puppy barked at the mention of his name.
"Maybe," Kiba continued, "we could meet here every week to train together, it could be like a date." Kiba rubbed the back of his head, and smiled at the thought of being alone with his crush.
Sasuke, who was on her way to retrieve the weapons she expertly threw, stopped and turned to the pest. She could tolerate him training at the same time as her, as long as they ignored each other. However, that wasn't what Kiba had in mind, clearly.
"We've been through this, Kiba," She said, an edge to her tone as she stared the Inuzuka down, "I am simply not interested."
"Oh, come on!" Kiba exclaimed, gesturing wildly, "You haven't really given me a chance! Who knows? Maybe I am what you are looking for?"
"That's the thing," Sasuke replied, "I'm not looking."
"No," Sasuke cut him off, "You don't understand."
Kiba would never understand the feeling of absolute need.
Right now, her only focus was to fulfill that desire to which she has devoted everything and will devote everything until he, her brother, was dead. She needed to train, needed to become the best that she could be, or else she will fail. Everything else was a distraction, and distractions just get in the way.
The faces of her friends flashed in the last Uchiha's mind, and she thought about them. At first, she thought of them as a distraction, and tried to get rid of them, to cut them away from her life and just dedicate her life to training. However, no matter how hard she tried, she just wasn't able to. They were important to her. Could this happen again? Could she fall in love with someone? Truth be told, Sasuke never seriously thought about love, romance, or dating. She was young and she had become a ninja, which doesn't help in the way of forming longstanding stable relationships with people. Today's friend might not be there tomorrow, or might even become tomorrow's enemy? Also, the life of a ninja and those of Genin specifically tend to be painful and brief.
How could one think of a future when the only future you might have is tomorrow?
"What I don't understand," Kiba said, anger in his voice, "is why you just keep rejecting me! Am I not good enough?
Sasuke rolled her eyes, this was how it always tended to go with Kiba. He never managed to get the hint or the message, even if it was plainly said to his face. She took a breath, and exhaled it, her eyes focused on Kiba as she prepared herself to address the boy.
She opened her mouth, ready to let loose on Kiba, when she heard the sounds of footsteps approaching them, her eyes looked to the right. She saw the whisker marks first, and then her eyes followed up with the blond hair. Uzumaki Naruto, hands in pockets, was walking toward the training area that Sasuke and Kiba were currently at. Kiba, whose eyes followed Sasuke's and growled at the appearance of the boy, and Akamaru followed suit, his white hair on end as his teeth was bared.
Sasuke's black eyes looked at Naruto's feet and saw Kit, Naruto's black fox scampering alongside him, yipping happily at being let out. The black fox snaked in between his master's legs, but when the fox noticed the puppy and the boy, Kit's tail lashed, and his eyes stared down Akamaru, who deepened his growl and bared his teeth more fiercely at the black fox.
"What are you doing here, Dead-Last?" Kiba barked angrily. Kiba's body language changed, turning now to face the blond in a pose that expressed as much hostility toward Naruto as Akamaru displayed toward Kit.
The blond, however, simply looked lazily over at Kiba, and then turned his gaze toward Sasuke, who was looking at Naruto nonthreatening curiosity.
"I said," Kiba began dangerously, "what are you doing here?"
Naruto, finally addressing Kiba, said, "I was taking Kit for a walk. Got a problem with that?"
The black fox yipped at the mention of his name, his yellow eyes never leaving Kiba's companion. Kiba glowered at Naruto, the sting of Sasuke's rejection causing pink to blossom on Kiba's face. It was evident that he was embarrassed to be caught in this situation by Naruto, and that embarrassment had evolved into anger at the Jinchuriki. Naruto, however, responded with a glance that indicated just how insignificant Kiba is to him. The look Naruto gave him seemed to have a profound effect on Kiba, as the boy looked at Naruto with intense loathing.
"Yeah," Kiba said with a hint of something feral, "I do. Me and Sasuke-chan were alone, so get bent!"
Naruto's blue eyes flickered toward Sasuke and then back to the boy, "Doesn't seem like she's that interested in you."
"Oh, yeah?" Kiba retorted, stepping forward threateningly, "What would you know about that? No one's ever been interested you!"
"That's exactly how I do know, dumbass," countered Naruto, Kit followed that up with a yip. Kiba's face turned red at that remark. Kiba refused to be shown up by Naruto, the Dead-Last.
"Ugh, I'm tired of this," Kiba took a fighting position, "You and me, right now. I'm going to beat you so bad, you'll want to leave."
Before Naruto could do anything, Sasuke finally spoke up, "Stop."
Two pairs of eyes looked at the Uchiha as she walked in between Naruto and Kiba. Sasuke kept her eyes planted firmly on the Inuzuka as she walked, and faced him when she stopped. She looked over her shoulder at Naruto, before assuming a fighting position.
"If you want to fight someone, fight me," Sasuke said, "I need the training, and you want to prove yourself."
"S-Sasuke-chan?" Kiba said, he took a step back, and his fight stance faltered.
"If you win, I'll go on one date with you," Sasuke told him. Kiba's face lit up slightly, but then Sasuke said, "However, if I win, you never bother me again. Got it?"
The Inuzuka thought about it. He had trained more rigorously after he had graduated, and had finally begun learning some of the more useful of his clan's jutsu in terms of combat. The Inuzuka clan specialized in using nin-dogs for support in combat. At this thought, Kiba shot a quick glance down to Akamaru, who was still staring down and growling at the black fox. Akamaru was still young, and maturing, would it be good to have him fight right now? Would it be enough to win against Sasuke, the genius of their class?
"I don't need your help," Naruto's voice broke Kiba's train of thought and the boy looked at the blond, "I can handle him myself."
Sasuke looked over her shoulder and glared at Naruto, "Not everything is about you, you know. Besides," Sasuke looked at Kiba, adopting her fighting stance again, "I've been waiting for a good fight."
"You won't get one from him." Naruto replied, looking at Kiba, "He's the worst in our year."
"Shut up!" Kiba yelled at the blond. That remark from Naruto made up his mind, he was going to show them what he was made of. They were going to regret underestimating him. He got back in his fighting stance, and a grin spread on his face.
Kiba turned toward the Uchiha heiress and smirked, "You wanna fight? Fine, but I'm just letting you know, I've improved a lot, isn't that right, Akamaru?"
Akamaru gave his master and affirming bark.
"Good," Sasuke said, and Kiba tensed his muscles, ready for the bout.
A silence permeated in the air as the two stared each other down. The chirps of birds that dwelled in the wooded area that surrounded the trio were the only things Naruto heard.
The blond took a step back, but otherwise did nothing as his blue eyes focused on his teammate. Ever since Wave, when Naruto got a little taste of what Sasuke could dish out, the blond had been eager to see Sasuke's abilities. While she did fight against Haku, that could hardly be considered a good exhibition of her strength. Haku was way too strong, and if The Kyuubi hadn't intervened, there was no doubt in Naruto's mind that he would have pounded Sasuke and Naruto into the ground.
"Yahoo!" Kiba shouted, bringing Naruto's attention to him, "Let's do this, Akamaru!"
Akamaru barked determinedly and Kiba crouched, closed his eyes and made a hand-sign. A wild electric blue chakra enveloped Kiba and licked his body like flames. The Inuzuka's nin-ken growled at Sasuke, causing the girl to raise her eyebrow in surprise and mild amusement.
Naruto's eyes narrowed, perhaps he would get a good showcase on Kiba's abilities as well. The Inuzuka clan was famed for their abilities in tracking and nin-dog techniques, including a unique form of bestial taijutsu. The blond had heard rumors about its strength, but had never seen it in action, let alone in a fight.
Kiba opened his eyes, and a feral smile formed on his face as he got on all fours. The chakra that surrounded his body lashed around violently and Naruto noticed that Kiba's features became doglike and his nails had elongated to the point where they no longer resembled those of a human.
"Ninja Art of Beast Mimicry: All-Fours Jutsu," Kiba growled.
Suddenly, Kiba disappeared in a blur and reappeared behind the Uchiha princess, his hand ready to swipe at the small of her back. Naruto barely had time to understand what happened, and Sasuke had even less to react.
"Got you!" Kiba shouted as he slashed horizontally across the back of Sasuke's torso.
There was the sound of clothes ripping, starkly contrasting against the peaceful sounds of bird chirping, however it seemed that Sasuke's clothes were the only thing that Kiba had managed to harm, as Sasuke had leapt forward in time to spare herself injury, but revealing her pale flesh exposed.
"You're pretty fast," Sasuke noted, when she turned around to face her opponent, "I clearly underestimated your speed."
"I'm just getting started," Kiba snarled, digging his nails into the earth as he prepared to launch another attack.
At those words, Sasuke experienced a stinging pain, and she remembered that the Inuzuka's fought side-by-side with their dogs. She mentally chastised herself, she had gotten so preoccupied with dodging Kiba, she had completely forgotten about Akamaru, whose tiny body was swinging in the air as his teeth sunk deep into Sasuke's already exposed flesh.
"Here I go!" Kiba shouted as he kicked off the ground, and launched at Sasuke with almost imperceptible speed, but this time, it seemed that Sasuke was ready for the attack, because as soon as he launched himself into the air towards her, she jumped as hard as she could vertically, Akamaru still just barely hanging on. The girl winced in pain as the dog's teeth shifted in the wounds, cutting more, but she managed to push the pain away and focus on how to win this battle.
"Fire Style: Grand Fireball Jutsu!"
A giant ball of flame hurled itself downwards towards the ground where Sasuke was just standing, and Naruto saw Kiba stop himself while the fire burned, leaving a giant blackened blemish which still smoked as the fire devoured the fuel available.
"Ugh," Kiba said, clasping his hands to his face, wrenching at the powerful smoke smell that had permeated the air around them, "That's foul!"
Sasuke wasn't done yet.
On her downward descent, the last Uchiha maneuvered her body so that it was horizontal, back toward the ground. Instantly, Naruto knew what she was planning. She had not only used that fireball jutsu as a means of deterring Kiba, but also as a means of making it more dangerous for Akamaru, who was now the first thing that would hit the scorched earth if something wasn't done. The fall alone would be more than enough to paralyze the puppy if its spinal column took the brunt of the fall, but with the fire that was still smoldering…
There was a good chance that Akamaru would die.
Kiba must have realized this too, because through the boy's coughs and wretches, he shouted "Let go, Akamaru!"
Sasuke felt the puppy's teeth dislodge and tiny paws kicking of her back, causing her to wince in pain, and Akamaru was flying into the air towards his master. Then Sasuke, fell out of Naruto's vision as she plunged into the smoke. All Naruto could hear now was the hiss of the smoke and the sounds of Kiba. The blond's blue eyes stared into the smoke, trying to discern anything that might even remotely look like his teammate.
Three kunai zoomed out of the smoke, aimed directly at the Inuzuka, and Kiba had tried to dodge them, only one hitting its mark, but only just barely as it grazed the boy's flesh and zoomed off.
"Ow!" Kiba yelled as he clutched his face, a cut on his right cheek, "What are you trying to do, kill me?!"
"A shinobi must always fight with the intention to kill," Sasuke's voice called out from the smoke, indicating that she was fine, "or they will never succeed against their opponent."
Sasuke's face burst through the smoke as she charged the Inuzuka, throwing a barrage of kunai and shuriken. While Kiba was busy dodging them, Naruto noticed something that had given him pause and his blue eyes narrowed at the countenance of his black eyed teammate, except that she no longer had black eyes.
Naruto's eyes narrowed at the red eyes of Sasuke.
How Sasuke had activated the famed bloodline limit, Naruto had no clue, but there it was, in plain sight. The blond's fists clenched as he witnessed just how much the eyes benefitted its user. She was faster, faster than Naruto had ever seen her be, but it wasn't the speed that really shocked Naruto, it was the ability to predict, and copy the opponent's movements that gave him pause. He had read about the Sharingan in the library, trying to gain as much knowledge as he could about any exclusive asset of the leaf that they possessed, and he could have hardly believed that something so powerful could exist in the eyes of certain individuals.
This wasn't the first time he had seen the red eyes, however, as Kakashi had possessed one as well, but Kakashi only used it as a last resort, and Naruto never really got to see it showcased, only getting fleeting glances at its potential in The Land of Waves. However, this was not the case, it was on full display as Sasuke, who had barely enough time to react before activating the bloodline, now was able to counter every single attack Kiba had sent out, even mocking him by copying his fighting style and using it against him when countering.
This was the true power of the Uchiha.
"Ugh!" Kiba yelled as once again Sasuke had rebuffed his attacks, "This is bullshit! Come on, Akamaru, let's get serious!"
Akamaru barked, before bounding toward its master, and opening his jaws. Naruto observed Kiba reaching into his waist pouch and produce two black balls.
They were created by the Land of Fire's military during the Third Great Shinobi War in order to crush their enemies. When consumed, the black balls would metabolize and produce an exergonic reaction that released an amount of chakra that exactly doubles the reserves of the person who consumed it, and gives the user so much stamina that they could fight for three days straight without a break, but at a terrible price. The amount of strain the supplement can put on the body is immense, and after repeated use, the consumer can experience intense episodes of paranoia, anxiety and exhaustion. Sometimes even death.
Akamaru's fur turned brown, when the little animal consumed the food pill that was tossed to him, and became more ferocious as its growl deepened. Sasuke, who too knew the effects of the pills, charged at Kiba, trying to prevent him from taking the second food pill, but it was to no avail as Akamaru blocked her path, distracting the girl just long enough for Kiba to consume it.
Blue chakra flared up once again around Kiba, and an intensely feral grin crossed his face as he showed off his K-9s.
"Come, Akamaru!" Kiba snarled, and the brown furred puppy obeyed, jumping backward and landing on Kiba's back
Kiba did a hand sign, and Naruto's eyes focused on the two of them as Kiba said, "Man Beast Clone!"
The wild, brown furred Akamaru vanished in a puff of smoke to reveal another, perfect copy of Kiba Inuzuka, savagely snarling at the Uchiha heir, who stared at the pair, one on the other's back.
"A clone?" Sasuke said, her Sharingan eyes flashing menacingly, "Is that all you got?"
"Tch," Kiba said, frustrated at Sasuke's reaction, "You won't be saying that on our date!"
"Get real, loser," Sasuke replied, staring down the pair, "I've been countering every single attack, do you really think that a clone will change anything?"
Kiba started laughing at the girl, who narrowed her red eyes at him, "I won't blame you for not realizing the position you're in, after all you know nothing of the Inuzuka clan's abilities.
You see," Kiba said, baring his teeth at Sasuke, "Our taijutsu full potential is only realized with a beast clone."
Sasuke's eyes widened, and Aka-Kiba barked menacingly at her, as she got into a guarded position.
"All you've been countering is my fighting style at 50%"
Aka-Kiba jumped off of Kiba's back, and landed on all fours, glaring at the girl with the red eyes. Then, they both vanished in a blur, just like Kiba had done earlier, and Naruto scanned the grounds around Sasuke. Akamaru normally wouldn't be able to keep up with Kiba's speed due to his age, but now… There were too incredibly fast enemies that were trained to work in perfect union with another. Naruto's blue eyes finally caught the outline of the two Kiba's and saw with wide eyes that one had appeared in front of Sasuke, and the other had appeared behind her. In perfect unison, the Kiba's attacked. The one in front of Sasuke slashed at her torso, forcing the girl to either jump, duck or lean back, but the one in the back swiped at her legs with the intention of knocking her off balance, making dodging the attack extremely difficult. Even with Sasuke's Sharingan, it would be nearly impossible to maneuver her in such a way that she would be unharmed. Sasuke used her legs to push off the ground and brought them to her chest with the intention of compressing herself so that she may dodge both attacks, but this was apparently what both Kiba's wanted. In a flash, both of Sasuke's opponents changed their momentum and sliced down on Sasuke. She fell victim to the pair's combo attack, and deep, bloody gashes were made on her back, causing the girl to cry out in pain.
"Yahoo! We got her, Akamaru!" One of the Kibas, the real one, said. Glaring at the girl who was lying face down on the ground, Kiba said "You ready to give up yet?"
"Not even remotely," Sasuke replied, glaring at the boy who spoke to her. Sasuke suddenly vanished in a puff of smoke and left the two wondering where she was. They started to sniff the air, but the scent of smoke still obscured their sense of smell, hiding Sasuke.
"Ugh!" Kiba yelled, frustrated, "Where did she go?"
The clone gave him a bark that conveyed his confusion as well.
"Ninja Art: Hidden Mist Jutsu," Sasuke's voice cried out from the tree line behind her opponents, and suddenly a thick wispy mist descended upon the clearing, blocking everything from Naruto's view.
There was the distinct sound of kunai flying through the air and embedding themselves into trees, and the sounds of Kiba frantically moving around, no doubt desperate to find a way out of the mist, but it was to no avail.
Naruto, on his first day back, researched the Hidden Mist Jutsu, eager to learn more about the only jutsu he has encountered that could block out and totally render the Sharingan useless, and the more he found out about the jutsu made it more impressive. It was a rare skill, only officially taught in the Land Hidden in the Mist. Because of its effectiveness against the Sharingan, the Hidden Mist village made it an exclusive skill, determined to maintain their advantage over the bloodline limit and over the other villages who were just as susceptible to the effects of the jutsu.
Now it had fallen into the hands of Uchiha Sasuke.
The mist chilled the air and the salty smell reminded the blond of the Land of Waves.
"8 points." Sasuke's voice reverberated throughout the mist. It seemed to have come from everywhere, and Naruto instinctively felt the need to look over his shoulder as heard the voice from right next to him. Zabuza Momochi, the Demon of the Hidden Mist, had done this to strike fear into the Genin that surrounded Tazuna, his deep gravelly voice piercing into the hearts of all six of them. The first time Naruto had encountered it, it was absolutely terrifying, but now it became an effective tool in the Uchiha Princess's arsenal.
It seemed that the Uchiha didn't just copy ninjutsu.
"Larynx," The sounds of footsteps moving became more frantic and Naruto heard a fearful bark sound off from Akamaru.
The footsteps stopped, leaving Naruto surrounded by silence as he too wondered what was going on.
"Spinal Column," The hairs on Naruto's neck stood on edge as he heard Sasuke's voice whispering dangerously into his ear.
"Jugular," Naruto heard Kiba turn around.
"Y-you aren't going to scare me!" Naruto heard Kiba shout, but the tremor in his voice betrayed his true feelings.
"Fang over Fang!" Kiba shouted, and there was the sound of the wind howling as something moved with considerable speed within the mist. Naruto could hear a tree being violently assaulted by Kiba's attack, and tiny pieces of tree bark pelted the blond, hitting him softly.
A whine reached Naruto's ears before it was suddenly cut off by the sound of a puff of smoke. Sasuke must have taken out Akamaru. Kiba must have realized this as well because there was a flurry of thumps, and Kiba's footsteps hurried over to where his companion must have been.
"It's okay, buddy. You're going to be just fine…"
In quick succession Naruto heard the sound of three more kunai embedding themselves in the trees around the blond. Naruto's eyes widened as he had to quickly move out of the way as the fourth made a bee-line to him. Naruto's footsteps alerted Kiba, and suddenly the blond found himself face to face with Kiba, who's savage face was enhanced by the anger of Akamaru being hurt.
The boy with red marks swiped at Naruto, who was forced to doge the attack. Kiba advanced on him, attacking Naruto as if he was the one who had hurt his companion. Naruto dodged the onslaught of attacks against him, just barely due to Kiba's speed.
The mist cleared, revealing Sasuke standing just behind Kiba, kunai poised to slit his throat, her twin Sharingans glimmering red in the sunlight. The boy froze in front of Naruto, a slight movement on his part could result in his blood being spilt unnecessarily.
"It's over," Sasuke said, pressing her kunai to Kiba's throat and using her other arm to twist Kiba's behind his back in a chicken wing, "you lose."
"The hell it is!" Kiba shouted, but soon after yelped in pain as Sasuke tightened the chicken wing. Kiba's reaction made the kunai prick his throat and a small stream of blood flowed down from it, causing Kiba look down at the drops that had made it to the dirt.
Naruto looked past Sasuke and Kiba, his blue eyes scanning the ground until he saw the small shape of Akamaru curled up on the ground, unconscious from whatever Sasuke had done to him. With Kiba disabled, and Akamaru knocked out, there was no doubt that it was Sasuke's win. If Kiba so much as moved, it would probably be the last thing he did.
"You can't move," Sasuke stated bluntly, "Akamaru can't help. Face it, you're done."
Kiba growled, but hung his head in resignation, his left hand hung at his side.
"You win…" Kiba mumbled, and at that declaration, Sasuke let go of Kiba, pushing him forward, and looked at the blood that flowed and dripped from the kunai. Kiba bared his teeth, clenched his fists and glared at the Uchiha princess.
"I wouldn't glare like that," Sasuke responded, "You might want to head off and fix that,"
Her eyes indicated the cut, and Kiba's hand went up to put pressure on it and without a word, walked to Akamaru, scooped him up into his hand.
When Kiba had left the grounds, Naruto's blue eyes lingered on Sasuke who had started to clean the kunai that was stained with Kiba's blood, eyes back to black. Kit had sat down on his hind legs, grinning at the girl. The black fox looked at Naruto, and then moved its eyes back to Sasuke and yipped happily, breaking the peaceful sound of the surrounding fauna.
"How did you activate your Sharingan?" Naruto said, breaking the silence between the two, and Sasuke looked up at him. She finished cleaning her kunai and had put it away before she replied.
"I managed to activate it just before I lost consciousness on the bridge."
Naruto remembered. Sasuke had gotten in front of a barrage of needles, saving Naruto from them. The image of Sasuke, needles protruding from nearly everywhere, clothes torn and breath ragged filled Naruto's mind. He must not have noticed, too preoccupied with the whole situation to note that Sasuke had activated her Sharingan.
"I never did thank you for that," Naruto said, his blue eyes flashing toward the ground in slight embarrassment.
A long silence followed after Sasuke's response, and the topic had gotten the blond thinking. When he was in the Wave, he had thought about whether or not he would sacrifice himself to save anyone, even if it was his best friend. As cold as it seemed, Naruto had no such impulse toward self-sacrifice, he had so much to do with his life if he was going to achieve his dream of destroying the Village Hidden in the Leaves.
Naruto's words caused the girl to look at him, her black eyes focused on his face as the memories that so often haunted her resurfaced, only to fade away slightly, never completely. They were always there. Her mother's smiling face and the look of stern recognition on her father, the red eyes of her brother's Sharingan glaring down at her on a cold lonely night.
"Yeah," she said tensely, "what of it?"
The blond's blue irises focused on Sasuke's face and saw the pain of loss all over it, and instantly he was reminded of the tragedy that Sasuke had experienced, the slaughter of the Uchiha clan. Naruto didn't fully know the circumstances that surrounded the bloodshed, but there were whispers that sought to unveil the mystery around it. Some of these whispers were unbelievable, retelling the events in brutal detail, while others were more reasonable, filled with uncertain tones and scarce facts. However, there was one fact that both whispers did agree on, no matter how gruesome or timid.
One person had done it.
"You said you wanted to restore your clan and kill a certain someone."
The blond hesitated, unsure of what to say next. Truthfully, he hadn't even planned on saying anything to the girl, but he found the words coming from his mouth and now he was left with her glare.
"Why would throw it away to save me?"
Sasuke turned a tiny bit pink at the question, but Naruto didn't seem to notice. In truth, she had no real idea why she had put herself in front of the blond and spared him from the flurry of senbōn, which embedded themselves deeply into her. She acted on instinct, no thought was put into her movements. She had believed that she had done it because of Kakashi's words about teamwork, but the more she thought about it, the less that had made sense to her.
If she was really concerned about teamwork, it would have been to her benefit to save herself as much as him.
"I don't know," Sasuke finally told Naruto, her mind still on the search for answers.
"I have a dream as well," Naruto told her, "A dream that I have been striving toward my whole life."
Sasuke was brought back to the day that she had been assigned and what Naruto had said when he introduced himself. On that day, she had thought him not worth her time or energy, but now, it gave her pause. It was a vague answer, that was certain, but the tone Naruto had said it in when he introduced himself indicated that it was much more than what it seemed.
"What is it?" Sasuke spoke to Naruto.
A gentle wind swept in, breezing through the training ground. The leaves slightly swayed under the wind's power, and the soft smell of smoke and salt lingered faintly in the air around the two, intermingling to produce the unique smell that Sasuke experienced. Her eyes widened as she took in Naruto's countenance. The blond's face betrayed his inner conflict, and she remembered the look because it was frequently seen in the mirror.
"My dream is to get rid of my pain."
Sasuke was no stranger to these words and the meaning they contained. It was she wanted. Along with the pain of sadness, she had the pain of anger. It bubbled and burned her insides, violently spurring her to take revenge upon her brother. Only temperance and promises kept the anger at bay, but just barely.
Naruto had never lived with his parents, Sasuke knew, but his pain was that of being on the receiving end of the villager's anger. His was a pain that he'd lived with throughout his whole life, a pain that Sasuke was fortunately spared of. They all had their crosses to bear, but both wished their crosses of pain to be relieved from them.
It was the dead of night, and the blond sat up on his bed, wondering why exactly he had shared his true feelings with Sasuke.
The blond looked out the window at the bright moon, its nocturnal light shining through his window. He had been particularly vague when he had first been asked what his dream was, on the day he got put on Cell 7, for very obvious reasons, but he wasn't quite as vague when he answered Sasuke. His answer was very revealing, more revealing than he might have wanted it to be. Naruto's mind went back his outburst at the Wave, and the words he had said to Inari.
"You don't fucking know what it is to have nothing."
His conversation with Sasuke wasn't the first time that he had made his true feelings known to other people, but it wasn't an emotional outburst brought forth by anger and lack of thought. It was more of a choice.
Ever since he was a little child, Naruto had wanted friends, it was an impulse that the blond could never really throw off, only smother in his attempt to tolerate his life and now to achieve his goal. However, Naruto felt that Sasuke was different somehow, more like him. In the Academy, she always strived to be the best, to outdo anybody that came before her, and Naruto had gotten only a brief glimpse of her pain on the day they had been put on the same Cell together. The blond remembered that he didn't think too much of her introduction, only using it as an explanation of her hard work. He was too focused on himself at the time to care about the motivations and pain of others.
The apology that the girls had given to the blond, however, seemed to have awakened something in him. His mind replayed the apology over and over, and an unfamiliarly happy feeling had glowed faintly inside him whenever he did. He didn't understand why his mind kept coming back to it, and he didn't understand why it made him happy. It was an apology, and while he hasn't received many of them, Naruto learned that apologies tend to amount to nothing.
The consequences of their apology to Naruto was more than just a good memory, because the blond sometimes caught himself thinking about one of the girls, wondering what and how they were doing. This, though, Naruto refused to accept, and whenever one of their faces popped into his head, he would do his best to occupy his mind with other things.
When Naruto stumbled upon Kiba pestering Sasuke, he could have just kept walking, or turned around. It was none of his business what other people get up to, but the look on Sasuke's face made it clear that it wasn't a conversation she had been enjoying, and peculiarly, Naruto felt compelled to interrupt it. Maybe it was his form of repayment? Maybe his confession to Sasuke was as well? Naruto wasn't convinced.
Naruto's blue eyes looked away from the window, and toward the clock on his bedside table. He sighed at how late it was, and stared back out at the moon. He should be asleep by now, and no doubt this would affect his performance tomorrow when he met the rest of the team for their training.
Finally deciding that this was a mystery for another day, Naruto, careful not to disturb Kit, prepared himself for sleep and closed his eyes.
A/N Note: Phew! Bet you guys didn't expect another chapter this soon.
Hey guys, Shintaro here! I gotta say, I am sorry that I didn't immediately jump into the next arc, however I am sure that you will forgive me when I explain that the intention of this chapter and the next is to build up the relationship between Sasuke and Naruto (as well as strengthening the relationship between Cell 7 in general), since she will not be involved in the new Arc. That being said, I am pretty proud of how this turned out, it was my second attempt at a ninja battle, and getting the opponents to fight was a bit of a challenge.
However, the fight wasn't just for shits and giggles, as it allowed Naruto to learn more about his "Rivals."
Anyways, I hope you really liked this chapter, be sure to review and tell me what you think!
Chapter Question: Why do you think Naruto told Sasuke about his pain?