The first sensation he had was that of pain.
Pure, unadulterated agony radiated throughout his entire being, making him all too aware of every blazing nerve ending. With a clench of the teeth, he managed to bite back a low groan at the pounding behind his eyes that threatened to drive him back into unconsciousness. Instinctively, his arms rose to clutch at his aching temples, only to find the way blocked; his hands struck an obstacle only a few inches after being lifted.
Amidst the pain, the man was able to register surprise at the impediment. Again, he attempted to bring his arms towards his head, only to find the obstacle unyielding. Turning his hands palm-up, he felt for the barrier and gave a tentative push. Nothing. Hands moving along its length, he realized it must extend to cover his body fully. Upon examining its breadth, tense knuckles brushed against new barriers on either side of him, similar to the ones above.
Panic now began to settle in.
With a startled yelp, the man began to push at the obstacles around him, desperate to drive the suffocating walls away from him. A small part of him – the part of his mind that wasn't currently overwhelmed by pain and panic – was expecting it. A sliver of consciousness that was forever a shinobi took stock of his condition, even as he began to give in; his body was weak to the point where even the slightest physical exertion sent shivers of agony coursing through his system. He realized he was desperately low on chakra, although that thought still hovered on the edges of his awareness, still incomprehensible.
Suddenly, a flow of images streamed into his consciousness; a red-haired man, a blond boy and hundreds of small, green lights. The torrent of memories drew out of him an unrestrained groan, his eyes scrunched tightly shut in an effort to blot them out. It made little difference. An abysmal throbbing headache struck with a vengeance, the waves of pain lancing through his core.
Sheer panic led him to bypass the pain and move his legs. Stretching, along with bringing a new wave of agony, only served to bump his head and feet on new barriers.
He was trapped.
The thought made him gasp, in fear this time. Eyes opened wide out of reflex, yearning to see a pinprick of light in the overpowering darkness that was engulfing him. His physical state was pushed to the back of his mind as he used the little that remained of his strength to free himself from his tight prison, to no avail. The air in the small space was stale and choking; it set his chest on fire only to draw breath. His mind was clouding over as a haze began to dull his senses.
However, he wouldn't give up. Not yet.
With a desperate cry, the man arched his back, the very core of his being seeming to reach out of his body. Though he had yet to understand what he was doing, he knew what he was reaching for.
At the very end of his senses – for he was no longer using his vision – he could detect a faint light, a beacon in the darkness. It was weak, but most definitely bright enough to guide him to it. He knew not if he could make it, but the pressure on his chest told him he had no time. Going entirely on instinct, the man sucked in a breath and reached for the light.
Instantly, the pressure in his lungs eased. The feeling of touch disappeared entirely. The shinobi had the sensation of almost being pulled apart as he traveled towards the light, eyes unable to close, mouth agape in a silent scream. Although the journey seemed to take an eternity, in truth, it was over in less than two heartbeats.
His body struck down onto rock, the force of impact leaving him winded for a second. As soon as his lungs cooperated, however, he drew in a breath that brought on a new onslaught of pain. Ice seemed to freeze his very insides as the cold, crisp air flowed into his lungs, making them hurt with the very force of working again. With the cold came precious oxygen that drove away the haze that had begun to blanket his consciousness.
Awareness slowly started to return to him.
He realized he was lying on a rocky surface somewhere outside. His every muscle was still cramping, but his headache had started to recede with the return of air to his system. The man was still gasping desperately for air, the cold sensation of its current into his body giving him a lifeline to cling to. For the longest time he lay there, feeling unable to even move. Idly, it occurred to him that he was very weak; chakra depleted, his mind informed him.
He knew that term. Had used it recently. Recently? Again, the jumble of images returned to him, now joined by a fresh torrent; a woman with bright eyes and flaming red hair; a dark, starry sky; a peaceful, sleeping village; a bright, nine-tailed fox...
At the thought of it, his eyes – the color of a cloudless summer sky – opened forcefully, only to close again as the bright light stabbed into them. Going against the screaming from every nerve receptor in his eyes, he forced them open once more, only to meet a disturbing sight that barely registered in his mind.
He was high up, overlooking a deep crater bordered by what appeared to be heavily damaged crimson walls. Rubble was scattered everywhere and huge dust-clouds had yet to settle.
Tears rose to his eyes, though he had yet to understand why. For several minutes, he let them fall while his mind had time to begin to heal itself, to piece together the fragments that were his memories. Again, the image of the blond boy came to his mind and, with it, a deep sense of urgency. He knew the face, knew the smile and voice that accompanied it. Despite his best efforts, he knew he was still helpless; that brought on an even deeper sense of urgency and despair. He needed to move but... to go where?
The name came in a flash and, with it, remembrance. In a flash, the torrent of memories sorted itself into a coherent stream that brought with it understanding. Worry and fear now mixed in with the panic still coursing through his system. He had to go to him – go to Naruto. That thought, above all else, dominated his consciousness.
With a superhuman effort, he ignored the pain and pushed his body up on feeble arms. The world spun furiously; he had yet to get his bearings. As soon as he was upright – if upright he even was – he staggered dangerously and felt the ground giving way under him. Emptiness greeted his body as he started to freefall, the world spinning around him out of control. Dizziness had overcome him and the bout of vertigo was enough to overwhelm his already stressed body.
As his eyes rolled back into his head and he let the tension in his muscles go, the last thought that passed through his mind was 'Naruto'.