Naruto: Wind Monk Banishment 12 - Main
Chapter 12: Conflict within Konoha
In Danzo's Base
Shimura Danzo had trained those in his service well. They were loyal to him, and his vision of what Konoha should be, rather than what it currently was. However, a shinobi did not live to be his age without picking up a keen survival sense.
When one of his men barged in, appearing in a submissive bow and his head down, Danzo acknowledged him to speak. He wouldn't have dared interrupted unless it was of the utmost importance. But the moment his head was raised, a sense of danger called out to him as the man's movements were not in line with what he had taught them. So when he reached for a scroll, Danzo had already cleared some distance with the Body Flicker technique.
It was all that saved him as ebony hellfire rippled free of the scroll.
Like the wildfire it mimicked, the flames spread quickly after incinerating the agent who had carried it. A number of good men and women were devoured by the ravenous flames as they moved with purpose, circling until they lined the walls. The room was now a ring of flames, more than eager to devour any and all that came close.
Danzo did not doubt the hold he had of those under his command. It had to have been a powerful genjutsu to turn one into a suicide bomber against him. So that, combined with the flames that lined the walls of the room to prevent escape through normal means, pointed to one person: Itachi Uchiha.
Said person appeared like there was a devil at his back, clones joining him, with the flames parting at the entrance for a moment like a curtain. Why wouldn't they? It was a stage he had set.
Of course, Danzo's own men would go on the offensive once they registered the threat. That's what they were trained to do. Two of them would reach him before the rest, so they were the ones who died first as the clones split in multiple directions.
Early Sacrifice was always one of Itachi's most used techniques, even when he was ANBU, and more so when the environment itself provided a means of dealing with his enemy. To that end, he leapt over the first assailant as he swung a blade, grabbing his shoulder as he did so. Upon landing, he threw the man—not into the ground, but into the wall as a sacrifice to the hungry flames.
Even before his death throes could start, the flames flaring as they feasted on the shinobi, Itachi's stolen blade moved towards the second and intercepted a kunai with a parry. It then came around and was thrust straight into the mask of what appeared to be a woman judging by the hair. His vision wasn't stellar enough to make out the features on the body, but he felt that the hair and the feminine, yet pained cry was enough to identify them.
He was briefly aware that his clones themselves managed to clear the ranks of a few. Unprofessionally as it was, he found himself thinking it was a shame. These men and women weren't absurdly different from Itachi in the grand scheme of things.
All of them wanted what was good for the village. They were all willing to stain their hands with the blood of the innocent and guilty alike to attain it. Bodies upon bodies left in their wake, nourishing to roots of the Hidden Leaf with the spilled blood, what else could they be but tools of destruction to unleash upon those that threatened the peace of the village—even their own families.
Indeed, the only real differences they had was the fact that Itachi could see the results of what Danzo's actions had wrought upon the world. Orochimaru, Kabuto, Pain, and Konan, all of them were the result of his manipulations. Even Itachi, to an extent, was who he became because of him, and all of them knew the horrors of the war that would be the result if he was allowed to remain so firmly entrenched in the Leaf.
These men and women who served him were too conditioned to be allowed to live. It was as simple as that. They carried his ideals and would follow in his stead with some sort of contingency plan, so they had to go no matter what. While Itachi did not delude himself into thinking he could rid the village of them all, he knew that he could cut off the head and reduce the numbers overall. That would cripple them and provide an opening for someone with cleaner hands than him to make sure it was done.
Another thing that separated them, now that he thought about it, was the fact that Itachi still had one emotion that he held just as secure as his loyalty to the village—his love for brother. His mother and father told him to look after Sasuke as he ended their lives for the good of the village, his blade cleaving through their necks as they faced death with dignity. Sasuke hadn't taken the path he had planned towards gaining the strength to survive what being a shinobi entailed, but he gained something else in its place and that would suffice once the night was over.
Pushing the brief musing out of his mind, Itachi removed the blade from the skull that it had been sheathed in. The woman wearing the mask collapsed onto the floor. Her long hair covered her head and face as blood started to pool under her corpse. He witnessed the colors and cohesion of chakra surrounding him and moved, substituting a third assailant in his place before he could adequately resist the pull of the technique. The man ended up being shredded as the space he was once was the focal point for a dozen invisible wind blades.
Crimson eyes fixed on Danzo. Those same eyes bled an instant later, pushing chakra through them like lens. Hellfire emerged—not where Danzo had been, but where he had been going.
It was still too slow in the end. Danzo managed to avoid it barely, but a tongue of black flames lapped at his shirt and what was beneath it. Now his arm locked in the protective casing was burning, the flames threatening to spread and consume him whole if he didn't sacrifice it.
Danzo wondered if that Itachi's intention, despite the fact that he had kept the arm itself a secret. However, it didn't matter in the end. If he didn't want to be swallowed by the flames entirely, he had to cast it aside. He stuck the arm out. "Fuu!"
The Yamanaka acted with haste and drew with sickles, cleaving his master's arm away at the shoulder to avoid the flames taking his life entirely. At the same time, an Aburame approached from the side and tried to lay his un-gloved hands on Itachi. What he hit was a Shadow Clone that dissipated into crows, which began to multiply and divide, the Scattering Thousand Crows technique at work.
With each one carrying the deadly rinkaichuu, they slammed into as many of Danzo's men as they could. Spreading the venom, they thinned the battlefield as others fell in unholy agony while their skin turned cracked and purple. As for the Aburame, the surviving clone grabbed him before he could escape and his eyes locked with Itachi's for a mere moment.
There was then a blur approaching Itachi from the corner of his eyes, speeding towards him with its weapon raised. Torune, under a genjutsu, intercepted it and struck what amounted to a trapped puppet, shunting his consciousness into the effigy. At the same time, Fuu ended up trapped within the Aburame's body as the stolen blade came around towards his neck. Itachi cut off his head, simultaneously throwing a fire chakra-laced shuriken at the effigy to get rid of them both.
Then there was only one left.
Danzo, covered in sweat and clutching his bloody stump, glared at Itachi unfailingly. He had always considered him one of the most dangerous shinobi in the world. Now it had been proven, his primary forces defeated. Words were wasted, so neither spoke as the elderly shinobi tried valiantly to stave off the inevitable.
Fighting through the pain of losing his arm, he gathered the wind-converted chakra in his lungs and spat it out in deadly, thin streams. They cut through the scattering of crows like blades, cleaving them away with ease as they approached him. His efforts were valiant for a man befitting his age, his belief driving him where a normal man's body would submit.
It was also ultimately futile, his fate sealed as a pair of hands came in from beneath the surface of the hard ground that rippled like water. The earth chakra soaking it allowed the clone to move under it with ease, and so when they pulled down and the chakra was pulled along with it, his feet were anchored to the ground so that he couldn't escape.
Missing an arm, his legs useless, chakra being sapped from stopping the loss of blood—there was no victory to be had. But, at the very least, he could take his enemy with him into death. With his remaining hand, Danzo pulled out a kunai and slipped it deftly between his ribs and into his heart, ending his life.
The fresh corpse then gave birth to a black void as the cessation of his beating heart triggered the death seal that he had laid upon himself. The darkness drew in whatever wasn't anchored to the ground—corpses, the black flames, rubble—everything but Itachi himself, who clung to the ground with chakra on his feet. The sphere devoid of light expanded, eating away at the surroundings entirely, until soon everything was swallowed into the yawning maw that even consumed itself in the end.
Without anything left alive, silence loomed in the room. From the remnants of the floor that had been smoothed into a curve, the stone slowly rippled. Itachi slowly surfaced, panting as he did so with sweat covering his brow. Once he was pulled out of the ground completely, he collapsed onto his knees and a deathly cough forced itself from his throat. Crimson painted the floor, blood seeping through his fingers in cascading drops that carried a little bit of his life in every one.
A little longer, he thought. Trembling hands reached for a Soldier's Pill nestled within the pocket of his pants. Another coughing fit made it slip from his grasp, the pill rolling down the gentle slope of the floor. Itachi traced the sound of it rolling, unable to see the small pill through the cloudy veils shrouding his eyes, and ran his hands across the surface until he grasped it. He thrust it into his mouth and chewed.
He forced himself up to his feet as he felt the lean fat, or what little his sickly body could hold onto, burned itself up for the sake of chakra. Even so, he swayed to the silent rhythm of his heart that struggled to hold out. Just a little longer….
He staggered forward, step-by-step. There was no stopping this close to his goal. He only needed to last just a little longer. So, regardless of the pain, he forced himself to keep going….
It was quiet on the streets of Konoha, most of the laborers and civilians turning in for the night to prepare for the next day. The silence and soft lights had a pleasant ambiance about them, more so when you were sailing through the air. The moment of weightlessness during the lull mid-jump, only to be suddenly fall back to earth and have your stomach drop in thrill, was relaxing once you were used to it.
Sasuke took more care than usual as he bound over the rooftops, rising and falling into the kaleidoscope of colors and the night air. He focused on height rather that distance, centering the jumps so that they were well-balanced and not as disorienting as they could be. Not that his date would notice, given the experience itself was something that few civilians had the luxury of relishing.
Still, Ayame seemed to enjoy it as she laughed with each movement, being carried bridal-style over the rooftops by her beau. Their date had gone swimmingly, to the extent that her face was flushed beneath the cowl that was fixed over her head. At the same time, Sasuke found himself enjoying this moment, taking pleasure in something that had become basic for him the moment he learned how to mold chakra. It wasn't flight, but it was close enough.
When they reached the alley next to her home, Sasuke skirted along the wall to slow the fall and landed softly. He gently let her down between the shadows of the two buildings. There was little chance of someone spotting them if he had set her down on her front porch, but better safe than sorry should somehow it got wind to fangirls.
"Well, that was exciting!" Ayame clasped her hands together as she took a deep breath, attempting to calm her pounding heart. "I knew you wouldn't drop me, but my heart's still racing!"
"You get used to it," Sasuke said, before thinking about it for a moment and then going back on it. "Well, for someone in my line of work, anyway."
"Ah-hem," came from above them. They looked up to see Teuchi looking down on them from a window, holding up a clock. "You're late."
"It was only five minutes, Dad," Ayame said. "Honestly, I'm a grown woman. I shouldn't have a curfew…"
Teuchi grumbled beneath his breath about 'shinobi' and 'daughters' before retreating into the window, closing it behind him. Ayame turned to Sasuke and planted a gentle kiss on his lips, her softness spreading honeyed warmth throughout his body. When she pulled back, he was tempted to grab her and hold her in place, taking more of her for himself. But, alas, he was a gentleman…
At least outside of the genjutsu, anyway. Ayame had some surprisingly kinky fetishes. Most of them involved bondage. Yes, Jiraiya was probably to blame—Sasuke had seen her with the orange-books more than once, even if he never said anything.
"Until the next time," he said, watching her as she exited the alley. Her door was to the right of it. "I'll put in some more practice so that I can get better at manipulating the displacement of time."
She turned back to him and smiled, her brown-eyes dancing at the thought. "See you then, Sasuke."
Once the door was closed and he picked up the sound of the lock clicking, Sasuke yawned. He wasn't so much physically tired, but genjutsu wasn't his specialty. Sharingan or not, it was taxing on his mind compared to raining fire and stabbing with lightning. Still, totally worth it.
Taking the street back to his district, Sasuke stared up into the vast night sky that seemed to twinkle with stars in thought of the next time. That abruptly ended the moment he heard Kiba's intoxicated slurs of elation and looked to see that the Inuzuka was slouched on his hound, twirling his arm above his head in victory. More than once he nearly fell, causing Akamaru to readjust to keep him up. The dog only shook his head in embarrassment.
"Well, sounds like someone had a good night," Sasuke said as they crossed paths.
Kiba threw his arm around his neck and pulled him in close. "L-listen to this, man! I gotta tell ya something!"
"Ugh!" Sasuke cringed at the alcohol lacing his breath, stinging his eyes and nostrils. "Kiba, you have got to learn the meaning of the word moderation. How many bottles did you empty out?"
Kiba's response to that was to tighten his grip around Sasuke's neck. "Listen man, Hinata kissed me tonight! On the lips!"
Sasuke scoffed. "So you managed to get past the gates of the Hyuuga Clan compound, reach her room, and then lock lips with her while smelling like a distillery?"
Kiba poked him in the chest, a scowl on his face. "I'm serious. I passed her on the street a few minutes ago."
Sasuke's expression tightened at that. Hinata was out and about? Sure, there was a chance that he was only rambling drunk, but to be safe he turned to the ninja hound. "Akamaru, is he telling the truth?"
The ninja hound gave an affirmative bark and nod.
Sasuke swore as he broke the hold Kiba had on him, ignoring his groan as he landed on the ground, and then sprinted down the street as fast as he could. Chakra laced his legs, arms, and lungs, vitalizing them to preternatural limits as he leapt onto a lamp post and then a building to get airborne. He had to get back to the Senju Complex as soon as possible.
While he didn't know how she had gotten out of her home, he knew that she was unstable and smart enough to figure out where Naruto was. There was little doubt that was her objective, since it was much the same when he was obsessed with killing Itachi. After everything that had happened, after losing her position as a kunoichi and turned against her comrades, that was the only reasons she could have for stepping out of her clan's compound at this time of night.
He reached the edge of the territory of the Senju Complex. It was a wooded area somewhat separated from the surrounding buildings and built on a long slope of land. Legend has it that the trees in it were personally grown by Hashirama Senju himself.
Sasuke frowned as he entered the woodlands without complications. There should have been ANBU stationed around key-points, to prevent anyone from entering that wasn't supposed to. Yet, Sasuke found none to bar his path as he advanced towards the large building despite the fact that even he shouldn't be able to outside his scheduled time.
That was another red flag, and his worry only compounded. Worse, he realized that he had spent chakra that could have been useful with Ayame and neglected to carry a weapon. Sure, he could have snuck one on him while he was with Ayame, but he hadn't wanted too, nor thought he would actually need it.
The cynic in him couldn't help but wonder why she couldn't do this some other night as he leapt from branch to branch, skipping the stone-stairs that made up the regular path…
Hinata got into the building without any problems, stalking along the hallway with ease as she made her way to the room where the Kyuubi slept. Her eyes hadn't picked up anyone within it, and the ANBU that she had seen guarding it in the distance were nowhere to be found. As suspicious as that was, she couldn't turn back anymore so it didn't matter. Besides, she didn't plan on surviving past the night anyway.
Opening the door at the end of the hallway, she came across the sight of the Kyuubi draped in sheets on a bed. Its chest rose and fell at a steady rate, unconscious and ignorant of the world around it. Being cared for like this, she found it to be mocking not only her, but the others who lived in the village.
After all the destruction it had wrought all those years ago, it got to lay down in comfort while under the protection of the village it had victimized. After toying with her heart and mind, it got to enjoy peaceful slumber without its dreams haunting it like hers did. She couldn't even recall a time when the dreams hadn't tormented her—the mockery of the Kyuubi, the harsh words of the Council, both constantly playing over in her mind with no end.
Well, no more. She had already slain her personal demons, now it was time to slay the one laying before her.
Standing over it, Hinata's upraised palm was wreathed in the soft glow of pale blue chakra. The blood vessels on the side of her eyes bulged as chakra flowed into them to make out the chakra network entwined around its heart. The hand dropped down—
Glass broke to the rear of her. Then her wrist was caught by a solid bulwark in the form of a forearm. Wood splintered and shattered, crashing from above to the grass outside, beneath the tree that Sasuke had pulled a substitution from using his chakra to swap places with the nearby dresser. His other hand was cloaked in lightning, the glare of its angry light bolstering the crimson of his Sharingan.
Hinata leapt back to the room entrance before the strike could run her through, but she noted that it was half-hearted and he didn't follow her. Her suspicions that it was a warning were confirmed when Sasuke stood over the sleeping Kyuubi like sentry, panting. His chakra reserves weren't high, and there were no weapons on him.
He clearly hadn't expected her appearance from what she could tell, so the question remained how he knew she would be here when she hadn't seen him earlier… Then she decided it didn't matter and thrust her hand out for a long-ranged attack, sending raw chakra across the distance as a lion's head with its fangs bared.
He didn't dodge it. If he did the Kyuubi would have take the full brunt of the attack and died. But so strong was the deceptive hold that the Kyuubi had on the Uchiha that he willingly took the attack and endured it, bringing his chakra to the front in an effort to ward away hers. It was only successful enough to stop it from being fatal to him, but the blood leaking from the corner of his mouth and the irregularity of his heartbeat made it clear he wouldn't survive another one.
"I pity you," she told him, her heart feeling somewhat heavy as she watched him struggle with heaving breaths. The chakra coils that connected to his lungs were damaged. It would take time to heal, even with a medic-nin, but he could still remain on active-duty afterwards. "The hold the Kyuubi has on you is so strong that you can't even see what's right in front of you."
"That should—" A cough added a splatter of blood to the wooden floor, staining it red in the moonlight spilling into the room. "That should be my line. You're making a mistake that you can't come back from, Hinata."
"You speak as though there was anywhere to go back to."Hinata stared at him unflinchingly, chakra radiating from her palm in preparation for another strike. "I don't wish to hurt you, but I've come too far to let anyone stop me. I have no home, and no family—I've given it all up to ensure the Kyuubi dies."
It was at that moment that Sasuke realized that she had reached the point where he had, only there was no saving her. Even if he restrained her, which wasn't feasible at this point and thinking otherwise was just foolish, Tsunade would have her killed for this. She had been very clear on that.
Sasuke couldn't help but think that when he had left the village Naruto came to the same conclusion. He'd attacked with intent to kill, betrayed his village, and was willing to give it all away for the sake of killing his brother. Yet, somehow, Naruto managed to save him when he should have been locked away or killed.
Could Sasuke do the same for her that the old Naruto would have? It would depend on how things went from here. "H—" A heaving cough left his mouth. "H-how did you get past the ANBU?"
"There were no ANBU when I arrived," she said, sincerely at that. "They all disappeared by the time I got close enough, though I'm not sure where."
Sasuke coughed again, more violently at that. Sending chakra to his lungs hurt the most, but his chest was killing him softly with just words. "ANBU don't just vanish like that. It smells like a trap. Someone's playing you, Hinata. They wanted you to get here for some reason."
"That would be my doing," said a voice from above. They looked up to see a man standing on the ceiling, upside down, donning the cloak of Akatsuki and a spiral mask that centered on a single eye… a Sharingan eye. "I was going to pin this on Danzo, but think of the chaos and unrest that would befall the village if it seemed like the renegade Hyuuga managed to kill the Jinchuuriki, as well as the last Uchiha, before taking her own life."
"Who the hell are you?" Sasuke said, staring into the Sharingan with his own spinning in place. It hurt, but rage managed to make the pain tolerable. Somehow, he doubted this man had been gifted his eye like Kakashi. "And why do you have that eye!?"
"Who am I?" Space twisted, swallowing the masked figure whole. His presence, his chakra, everything about him utterly vanished. Then space untwisted next to Sasuke, putting the masked man face-to-face with him. "That's not really something a dead man needs to know, is it?"
Lighting crackled to life, sweeping in an arch to take off the masked man's head. It sailed through the man's head with no resistance, leaving him twisting as his eyes registered the movement of the other hand. Sasuke's leg snapped up, coming around as he threw his entire body into the twist and caught the arm holding a wooden stake at the crook of the elbow.
The resistance in it vanished, leaving the ghostly arm coming up for his head. Theoretically speaking, if he couldn't touch the man the opposite should have been true. Logically speaking, Sasuke dodged as the stake was driven into the bedpost.
And then wooden floor beneath him began to ripple as he set foot on the ground, wooden pikes emerging from below in an attempt to skewer him. It was move or die again, forcing him to leap up, only for the masked man to lash out with his foot and catch the ribs with a crack while it sent him skirting the floor. He barely managed to roll out of the way as more wooden pikes shot up, tearing into his shirt and scraping the flesh to draw blood from his side as he crouched back against the wall and clutched where the kick had been.
Cracked, but not broken. Still, it hurt like a bitch. It would slow him down, and they both knew it.
At the same time, the masked man thrust his other hand out towards the Hyuuga. She had been circling around, attempting to get at Naruto while their backs were turned. The ebony spear made of wood flew out to pierce Hinata's abdomen. She moved to dodge it, but the wood fractured and then split into several spears, one of which succeeded in nailing her to the wall with a short, pained scream.
With one incapacitated, blood seeping from the wound as she tried to futilely wrench it free, only for pain to make her cry out again, and the other struggling to his feet while coping with internal damage, the masked man decided to grab what he came for before something unexpected happened. Sure, he made a gambit of it when the Hyuuga came and cleared a path for her, but the Uchiha was unexpected, even if he decided to spin it to murder-suicide. There was no telling if Sasuke alerted someone else on the way up, so he reached for the sleeping prize all three were fighting over.
Sasuke forced himself up, the light of the Chidori glaring off his face and his scrunched and feral expression as tore through the wooden pikes that hindered him. Charred splinters scattered, and he lunged forward, but he could tell he wouldn't make it in time before Naruto was sucked into that eye vortex. He could see the chakra already starting to twist in place, reaching out like hungry tendrils as it expanded the space it would reach.
At the same time, a burnt-orange chakra slowly began to bleed from Naruto's tenketsu. His muscles slightly twitched in the process. He was waking up it seemed, but Sasuke doubted he would be in a position to do anything if he was sucked into that mask.
In the end, it didn't matter. The vortex was banished as the hellfire drew a line between him and Naruto, catching the sleeve of the cloak on fire as the masked man took a step back. He tore away the sleeve and tossed it aside. Rage seethed in the masked man's throat, heard by all as three Sharingan eyes were drawn above, to the window where pale moonlight was cast around a daunting figure draped in the cloak of black and red clouds.
"Itachi," Sasuke choked out. "Why are you here?"
The man in question didn't speak. Instead, he Body Flickered next to Naruto, which gave Sasuke pause and stilled his breath. It wasn't that far of a stretch, they were part of the same organization judging by the cloak. He was siding against him, despite claiming that he was still Itachi of the Leaf when they last met.
Sasuke's heart dropped… and then steeled. He wouldn't win against them both. But, at the very least, if Naruto was waking up he could maybe get him away long enough for him to flee.
Itachi moved. In a single and fluid motion, he grabbed and unceremoniously flung the sleeping Jinchuuriki towards his younger brother. The abruptness of it nearly caught Sasuke off-guard, but he dispersed the lightning to grab Naruto with both hands, skidding back in the process. He winced as his body throbbing in pain, but that didn't matter.
Not now that the masked man was in front of him in the span of a heartbeat later, reaching for them both. Only the fact that his brother took his place with a Substitution saved them, the cold steel of a sword caked in dried blood at the masked man's throat. It would have taken his head if a thick bark hadn't enveloped his neck, stopping the blade.
"What is the meaning of this, Itachi?" the masked man growled, eye narrowed. "Are you betraying Akatsuki?"
"Run." Itachi ordered. Not to the masked man, but to his brother. Then his stolen sword danced its lethal danced in an effort to buy time, fire-chakra lacing it to make sure that bark didn't hinder him a second time. Sasuke took the chance to leap out of the window he broke earlier with Naruto in hand, leaving the confines of the building as the hellfire spread slowly to soon turn it into oven.
"Zetsu," the masked man said, adding nothing further as wood twisted from a palm with a sharpened tip. The shadows answered him, wood rippling as the assimilated being traversed through the boards of the house and into the woodland to chase its prey. With a weapon in hand, the masked man moved to kill the traitor with no other words between them.
In the midst of their clash, neither paid mind to the fact that the Hyuuga was no longer where she had been left, or that the back of the wall she had been pinned to had been blown apart. Blood marked the trail that lead into the woodlands….