Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or The Last Airbender.
Bodyguard of Azula
Chapter 71: Looking and Battling
(Location: Team Paragon & Team Avatar)
They had separated into three groups: the people who traveled on Appa, the people who traveled on Fǎn Yìng (the dragon and the flying bison, as well as Momo, had come along for the "surprise"), and the people who were walking alongside Nyla. They were on their way to the possible location of the Mountains' Graveyard. While they weren't traveling with anyone else, Tsunade had told them a team of shinobi would be following and provide additional support until more backup (i.e. the majority of Konoha's shinobi force) arrived. Since they were going to the possible headquarters of the Akatsuki, chances were not being taken. "Any luck?" Aang asked June as he brought Appa down to a level where they could hear each other. He was still a little nervous to be around the bounty hunter (mostly because he didn't want to get punched like that again).
"No." She answered shortly, trying to stay focused on handling Nyla. The shirshu shared his mistress' dislike for the Airbender. The difference was he was more inclined to act on it.
He looked over at Sokka and Akela, who were on the ground along with June and Nyla. "What about you, Sokka?" He asked.
"Aang, if June and Nyla don't have his scent, what makes you think we have it?" The Tribesman asked, his sarcasm coming out in full force. As they headed for the Mountains' Graveyard, they were also looking for Naruto, figuring that he would've come this way. But so far, they were having no luck.
"I was just asking." He replied a little defensively. He urged Appa back higher into the air, not wanting to continue the conversation.
"Let me guess, they're having no luck?" Zuko asked drily. Both he and Azula were riding Fǎn Yìng. Everyone else sat in Appa's saddle, some simply lounged and some were keeping an eye out for anything that told them that Naruto had been there. So far, there was nothing.
"What do you think?" Toph asked, speaking before Aang did. "Besides, I thought we were heading somewhere, not looking for the resident pain in the ass."
"You're going to have to be a little more specific than that, Toph." Suki told her. The Kyoshi Warrior was wearing her full gear, including the face-paint. But there was a small smile on her face as she spoke those words. "We have many pains in the ass."
"I'm talking about Naruto, duh." The blind Earthbender said with a roll of her eyes, exaggerating it just to show off the fact that she was blind. "Who else would I be talking about?"
"Don't you dare answer that question, Suki." Azula ordered from where she sat on the back of Fǎn Yìng, her face set in a warning scowl.
Suki could only laugh when she saw that scowl. "Alright, I won't." She replied, easing back against the side of the saddle. "The Spirits know I don't need a lightning bolt from you when you're like this."
"Like what?" She demanded.
"You're always like this when Naruto leaves without letting you know. You start getting snappish and irritated at the smallest thing. And if it goes on long enough, you'll start looking for excuses to try setting one of us on fire." She pointed out the facts, using her fingers to list them off. "And when he finally does come back, you're torn between hitting him and kissing him."
"So currently, she's going to put him in a coma or take him right on the spot?" Zuko asked with a grin on his face. Azula tried hitting him upside the head, but he ducked before her fist made contact.
"Pretty much," She agreed with an identical grin.
"Nice to know that nothing's really changed after you guys left." Toph commented. Secretly, she had worried that they would be different when the two teams met again. While that was true in some aspects, enough was the same that she was glad.
"Ask Toph if she manage to find someone!" Sokka shouted from below.
"Sokka wants to…" His girlfriend began to repeat.
"I heard him!" The Earthbender in question snapped before looking over the side of Appa. "And it's none of your business, Sokka!" She shouted down.
"Uh…Toph, he's on the other side." Katara told her gently. Oddly enough, no one said a word, mostly because they had gotten so used to the fact that things like that were going to happen with Toph.
"Hey, guys, can we talk about something?" Aang asked, looking back from where he sat atop of Appa's head.
"What about?" asked Zuko as he flew Fǎn Yìng in a little closer.
"About that ringing bell sound we all heard." About a day before they had left, everyone in Konoha felt the earth tremble as a bell ringing echoed in the air. When they heard that bell, everyone felt something. They weren't what that feeling was exactly, but they all felt that for some reason, they should be in awe. However, Aang felt something different. He felt an inkling of… familiarity and…fear. It was like he had known what the something was, and knew enough to be afraid.
"What's there to talk about?" Toph asked back without a care. Sure, she felt humbled by the feeling, but she also moved past it. It had just been a brief feeling; there wasn't anything to talk about.
"I don't know. It's just…" He tried to find the right words, but couldn't.
"It's just what, Aang?" Katara asked her boyfriend, concern evident in her voice. He just shrugged his shoulders. He couldn't answer.
"Do I have to come up there and slug him again?" June asked from beneath them, sounding hopeful.
Aang shifted his focus back to flying when he heard that, a small look of fear on his face. "No, you don't need to do that." He hurriedly shouted down at her. "I'm just going to focus on flying."
"You do that." She replied.
It had taken him three days since reaching the mainland from the Land of Whirlpools, but it turned out that the information he and his team had gotten turned out to be correct. "I know you're there, Tobi!" He shouted out loud as he stood in front of the Mountains' Graveyard. "But are you going to come out, or am I going to have to drag you out?"
"Well, he certainly is confident." A snarling voice spoke as the form of Zetsu rose out of the ground.
'The question is will he be able to back that confidence?" A second voice asked, the lips on the white side of Zetsu moving as it spoke.
"Where's Tobi?" Naruto asked the creature in front of him, not backing down. As if to answer his demand, a hole appeared in the air, twisting around and around, seemingly spewing out air into the world. And out of the hole came the form of Tobi.
"You need not concern yourself, Naruto." The masked member of the Akatsuki said as he stood on the ground, facing the blonde. "I am here. Have you come to give yourself to us?"
He snorted in derision. "You wish. I'm just here to kill you." He declared as he reached into the pack. "And to also give these back to you." He pulled a bundle of cloth and dropped it on the ground, making a large, metal CRASH!
Both Tobi and Zetsu stared at the bundle as it landed on the ground and inadvertently revealed its contents. Six headbands with the symbol of Amegakure scratched across lay on the bundle; some were specked with dried blood. The meaning was clear: Pain was dead. "How is this possible?" The snarling voice, seemingly coming from Zetsu, demanded.
"He made the mistake of coming after me when I was angry." Naruto answered, remembering how it ended.
The surrounding area had been damaged by the fight, short and brutal that it was. Five of the six Pains lay dead around the place, their headbands already taken from them. All that was left was the spiky-haired Pain, who lay against the trunk of a tree, unable to move. "How could this happen?" He asked, staring up at the person who had defeated him.
"You can thank Jiraiya for it." Naruto answered, holding his Zanpakutō (back in its sealed state) in both hands. When he had noticed that the Pains were twitching, the bald Pain a bit more than the rest of them, he figured that something was going on with them. When the bald Pain began to spasm and make random movements, he remembered what Jiraiya had said about the poison. He connected the dots when he began to see the other Pains spasm as well, that they all shared the same chakra and that chakra was now killing them. It was a huge factor in the blonde's favor, helping him win the fight.
"…Are you going to kill this Pain?" The spiky-haired Pain asked, his eyes flickering down at himself.
"I've already killed the other five, why would I stop with you?" He asked back, raising his Zanpakutō into a stance that was ideal for stabbing. As he was about to make the killing thrust, a hail of paper shuriken flew at him, forcing him to leap back. When the hail died, Konan, who had been ordered to stay out of the fight, stood between the two. "I guess you want to die too?" The blonde asked, readying to fight again.
But what happened instead surprised him. She fell to her knees and bowed her head, touching it to the ground. "Please, let me take him home." She begged. "Don't mutilate him like you did the others." The other Pains were missing limbs or even their heads, a sign to how vicious Naruto was when he fought against them.
After a stunned moment of silence, he spoke. "Why should I?"
"He's already dying." She began.
"He's a puppet, why would you care?" He asked, cutting her off. He remembered from Iruka's lessons (on a rare day when he had been paying attention) that no two chakras had the same signature. If there was such a case, then one of the two people who had them was a puppet.
"He's more than a puppet to me! He's not Pain, he's Yahiko and Nagato!" She shouted at him, raising her head to look him in the eye, her emotionless mask breaking.
"Konan, enough," The spiky-haired Pain ordered, his monotone voice never changing.
She turned slightly to look back at him, a tear glistening in the corner of her eye. Then she turned her head back to Naruto and bowed it again. "Please, I'm begging you. Let me take him back. Let me care for them until they finally pass away." Silence ran paramount through the forest after she begged him for that favor. She kept her head bowed, not daring to look up. Finally, she heard the sound of his feet walking past her, a sound that filled her with despair, along with the sound of a sword being shifted in the hands that held it. The feet stopped walking and the few seconds that followed felt like a lifetime to her.
But the sound that came next confused her, as it wasn't the sound of a head being decapitated. It was the sound of a cloth being cut. When it stopped, the feet started up again, only to stop when they sounded like they were directly in front of her. She raised her head and saw that they were in front of her, making her look up all the way to his face. "For the sake of the sensei who taught us both, I am willing to be merciful." Naruto began. "I will grant you your wish. You may take that Pain back to Amegakure and care for it and its puppet master until they died. But let me be very clear about this." He lowered himself so that they were eye-to-eye. "You will never leave Amegakure again. If I hear a single whisper of a rumor that you have done so, I will find you and I will kill you. Are we clear?" She said nothing in response. She only nodded her head in agreement. He stood back up and walked away, leaping into the surrounding forest and leaving them behind.
Tobi looked from the bundle back up to Naruto. "Most impressive, Naruto," He finally said, keeping a neutral tone in his voice. "It seems that I was mistaken in believing you would surrender yourself when we met again."
"If you wanted that to happen, you shouldn't have killed Jiraiya or sent Pain after me for a third time." He replied shortly, gripping the Zanpakutō at his side a little tighter.
"I did not give any such orders to Pain. It was likely that he was acting on his own for the benefit of this organization. But that does not matter now." He shrugged his shoulders. "I supposed this is where we start this fight you want so much?"
"Not just yet." The blonde held his hand up in a stopping gesture. "There is one more thing."
"And what is that?"
"Kakashi wanted me to give these to you." He pulled out the googles he had been carrying since he left the village and tossed them at the masked shinobi.
He caught them with ease. For a moment of silence, he just stared at them. "…So he discovered the truth, did he?" He asked himself, rubbing a thumb against the glass. "Tell me, Naruto. Did Kakashi tell you who I was when he gave these to you?" He asked the blonde, looking at him.
"All he said that he knew you once." He answered shortly.
"That would be true, and so have you."
"You lie." He instantly said. He knew that he had never met Tobi before the mission to the capital.
"I do not. We knew met before. Granted, you were a newborn and I was threatening to kill you so I could get ahold of your mother, but the fact remains." The masked shinobi said causally, like he was talking about something that didn't really mattered.
"Oh? They didn't tell you that your mother was the previous Jinchūriki of the Kyūbi?" He asked, almost sounding like he was disappointed.
"The fox told me that." The blonde answered him, still not believing a word of what he said.
"Did he also tell you that I was the one extracted him from your mother and set him on Konoha?" He asked again.
"…That, he did not." Naruto answered honestly. "Why did you not tell me this, furball?" He mentally asked the Kyūbi.
"That night is still a bit of a blur for me, kit." The Bijū answered. "One minute, I'm sealed inside your mother. The next thing I know, there are a couple blurry images, some screaming, and before I know it, I'm sealed inside you."
"I thought he hadn't." Tobi continued, ignorant of the conversation the Bijū and Jinchūriki just had. "But it still happened. You could almost say that I am the reason you are a Jinchūriki, Naruto." A dark chuckle escaped from behind the mask. "I wonder what my old sensei would've said if he had knew that before he died. Then again, I also wonder what he would say if he knew who he had been fighting that." He was silent for a moment before shrugging his shoulders carelessly. "It doesn't matter. As for your fight, Naruto, I'm afraid that I must decline." He turned his back and started walking away. "Zetsu, take him alive."
"You got it." Both voices said in unison, leaping for the blonde. The masked shinobi kept on walking, until he heard the sound of two bodies hitting the ground with a meaty THUD! He stopped and looked back. Zetsu had been bisected and Naruto stood over the two pieces, the sword drawn and dripping blood.
"Seriously?" asked the blonde. "That's all you were going to have me fight?" He flicked the blood off of his sword, splattering it on the ground in an arc before sheathing it. When Tobi looked upon the blade, he was suddenly reminded of the day he heard that sound of a bell ringing in the air that soon faded into an echo. Whatever he felt was eclipsed by what he saw. The Gedō Mazō had opened all its eyes and howled into the air. It had raised all the hair he had, and the unnerving thing? The howl sounded like a challenge to the bell.
"…Perhaps it was rather rude of me to think capturing you would be that easy." The masked shinobi admitted, slipping his hands into a handseal. "Thankfully, I have a backup." The ground seemed to quake for a moment. Then, once it had stopped, creatures began to rise up from the ground. They turned out to be copies of Zetsu, with the major differences being they were completely white and had none of the Venus flytrap the original had. "Don't kill him, we need him alive." He ordered the army of Zetsu clones before turning back around and leaving.
As the clones began to move forward and encircle the blonde, he only smirked in response. "That wouldn't be a good idea." He told them. "If I were you all, I would turn around and walk away."
"And why we should?" One of the clones in the front asked him. "It's clear that we have the advantage over you."
"That would be quantity or quality and personally, I always believed that a healthy mixture of both will trump either one of them." He replied as he shifted the pack off of his back, letting it hit the ground (it would've been extra weight soon and he didn't need it). He pulled his Zanpakutō out, sheath and all, and held it out in front of him. The expression on his face went flat as he grasped the hilt. "Shatter the chains that bind you and stand in defiance against those who would shackle you." He intoned as he slowly drew the Zanpakutō out. "Jinchūriki!"
As the blade was about to clear the sheath, the entire thing morphed. Instead of a sword, he now held a naginata. Its shaft was made of black wood that had both ends of the pole capped in gold. Attached to one end of the pole was the figure of an orange fox's head, mouth agape and almost carved as a snarl. Protruding from its mouth the blade was the blade of the weapon, having a curved edge. Pierced in through the bottom of the blade, so they hung around the fox's lower jaw, were nine golden rings.
But Naruto didn't stop there. While still holding the halberd, he crossed his fingers into a familiar handseal and said "Kage Bunshin no Jutsu." Eight copies came into existence, carrying the same weapon. The difference was that instead of having a fox's head and nine rings, the other eight each had a different head that represented a Bijū and the rings that corresponded to the number of tails it had. From the figure of a tanuki's head and its one ring to the figure of a bull's head and its eight rings.
Despite the fact that they all felt the same feeling of uncertainty and unease when looking at the transformed weapon, one of Zetsus scoffed. "Is that supposed to fright—?" It began to ask with a sneer on its face, only to have it turned to shock when a bolt of lightning punched a hole through its chest and causing it to collapse to the ground, dead. The rest of the clones look in the direction where the bolt originated and saw the naginata with the bull's head had lightning crackling at its tip.
"Yes." The original Naruto simply answered as the other seven naginatas came alive. The first had sand float around the blade. The second blade was wreathed in blue fire. The third blade was encased in water. The fourth blade had a ring of lava circling it. The fifth blade had small rocks orbiting it. The sixth blade had what looked to be slime glistening down in rivulets. And the seventh blade had a cone of spiraling air cocooned around it. Out of all them, only the ninth blade, the one which the original held, had nothing.
The eight clones leveled their version of the Zanpakutō and attacked while the original just stood there and watched in silence. Despite the clear numerical advantage the clones had, it was soon rendered moot by the way the clones fought. Some of them were graceful, looking like they were dancing, and some were crude, more direct and to the point. But all of them were vicious and deadly, and the elements they bore added to the effect. Even with more and more Zetsu clones rising from the ground, whole swaths were demolished.
Some choked to death as the sand filled through their throats while others suffocated when the air was pulled out of them. What seemed to be slime on the naginata with the figure of a slug's head turned out to be acid and was quite corrosive, if how the wounds inflicted on the clones and their screams where anything to go by. Both the blue fire and the lava killed several of the clones, burning them alive. The naginata with the figure of a dolphin-horse's head crushed several clones' heads with boulders and also sent them falling into fissures formed when the blade struck the earth. And the lightning from the eighth version electrocuted clones, killing them in an instant.
Tobi, who had stopped in front of the entrance to the caves and had turned back around at the sounds of fighting, just watched. He didn't do anything or say anything. He just observed how the massive clone army he had been preparing ever since the Akatsuki had captured their first Jinchūriki getting torn to shreds. "…Are you afraid to fight for yourself, Naruto?" He asked, finally breaking his silence.
"I am fighting." The clone holding the seventh version answered, spinning the naginata around and around, sending clones flying into the air from the wind created by the spinning.
"I mean the original you. The one who hasn't moved since this fight has begun." He clarified, gesturing to the original Naruto, who hadn't moved from the spot he stood on; holding the naginata like it was a staff. Every time a Zetsu clone tried to get to him, one of the copies would double-back and stopped it, while he acted nothing happened.
"They seemed to be doing just fine." The original stated, looking at his clones. The reinforcements the Zetsu clones had been getting slower until it had finally stopped. The rest of the clones were being taken care of. "But perhaps you're right. I think the number has been whittled down enough." His clones disappeared in plumes of smoke, leaving him alone against the remnants of the Zetsu clones.
"Hah, that was a mistake you're going to regret making!" One of the clones told him in a triumphant voice.
"I wouldn't be so sure of that." He relied, casually lower the naginata until its tip was pointing directly at them. "You've seen what the other versions can do, but you haven't seen what this version. The Kyūbi is the strongest of the nine Bijū. Would you like to know what element was chosen to represent him?"
"What?" Another clone asked.
"Energy," He answered with an almost feral grin as the blade seemed to pulse and turn to a reddish color, almost the same color of the fox's chakra. "Pure. Unrefined. Power!" He leapt for the clones, swinging the naginata.
What happened next was completely different from before. However crude or graceful the previous versions were, there was a sense of style to them. There was no style to how he wielded the naginata. He swung it like it was a club. But the effect was the same. Wherever the club was swung, the Zetsu clones were sent flying back or mere plowed over, crushed by the massive force that was bent from the naginata. Whole chunks were of the clones were destroyed just being struck.
"Run for your life!" One of the outermost clones screamed, as the fringes began to run away. But that particular clone was beheaded by Tobi, who wield a sickle in his right hand that had a chain attached to the bottom of its shaft.
"You will fight, or you will die." The masked shinobi ordered the rest of the Zetsu clones, taking hold of the chain and began to swing the sickle. "It's your choice."
"That's hardly a choice!" Another clone protested. But before Tobi could decapitate that one, it was crushed by the force, head bursting as it fell to the ground.
"I happened to be talking to that one, Naruto." The Akatsuki member said aloud, looking at the carnage. "It's rather rude to kill someone when they're in the middle of a conversation."
"Like he actually cares about something like that." The blonde mentally said in derision as he swung the naginata again, sending a group of Zetsu clones flying through the air. The remaining clones were getting fewer and fewer as he kept on destroying them. Some tried to fight back, a few fusing together to make a bigger, mutated version. But Naruto's response was to put truth in the old saying "The bigger they are, the harder they fall." Moving the naginata in a thrusting position, he sent the mutated version flying through the air, its chest crushed instantly. As it slammed into the ground, it broke apart into bloody pieces.
"Gruesome." The Kyūbi idly commented.
"Your color commentary is not needed right now." His Jinchūriki told him before refocusing on the fight. The rest of the Zetsu clones fought with a desperate energy, trying to surround him and take him down all at the same time. That was their fatal mistake. He simply swung his weapon in a circle and they were all crushed by the pressure of the force.
He was known alone. Looking over at where Tobi had supposedly been standing, he saw that the masked shinobi was now gone. Not wanting to let him get away, the blonde charged directly into the entrance to the caves. "Get back here, Tobi!" He shouted into the semi-darkness, running through it.
"I'm not going anywhere, Naruto." Tobi's voice echoed around him as chakra lanterns illuminated the area. It showed the shinobi standing in front of the statue that could only be the Gedō Mazō. The sickle was still in his right hand. "I just figured we needed more room."
"How considerate of you," The blonde replied sarcastically.
A quiet chuckle escaped from the mask. "My old sensei also had a sense of sarcasm, although it wasn't as sharp as yours. He used it more to poke gentle fun at others."
"You keep talking about your sensei like I should've known him." He noted, staring at the orange mask like he was trying to will it to reveal its secrets.
"You would've, had I not deprived you of the chance." Tobi answered. "Well, I should say the Kyūbi deprived you of the chance, but I released it in the first place. So, I deprived you." He suddenly laughed when he saw the frown on Naruto's face. "That's the same frown he wore whenever he had to separate me and Kakashi when we came to blows."
Multiple things clicked into place at those words. A vague memory came to mind, becoming clearer and sharper as he remembered. It was a memory of before Sasuke had tried to run away, when he was a member of Team Kakashi. One of them (he forgot who exactly) had asked Kakashi how he got the Sharingan for a left eye and he told them the story. "You're him, aren't you?" He asked aloud. "You're the person Hatake's left eye belongs to. You used to be his teammate. You're Obito Uchiha."
Whatever laughter he had left vanished when he heard those words. Nothing but silence ran rampart through the cave for a good two minutes before he finally spoke. "…Kakashi told you the story." He stated, not asking a question.
"He did, a few years ago." The Fire Paragon replied. "You look quite alive for a dead man."
"And I thought you would ask why I hadn't returned to the village." He idly commented.
"If I was loyal to the village, I might've. But I'm not, so I won't. The question I have is that now I know who you are, are you still going to keep wearing that mask?"
Again, he was silent. But he released his grip on the sickle, reached up, and pulled the mask off. The right side of his face was scarred in such a way that it looked heavily wrinkled. It was the only thing that visibly showed what happened to that side of his body. Other than that, he looked normal (even though his skin was a bit pale). What had surprised Naruto was that his left eye wasn't an empty socket. There was a Sharingan in it as well. "Like what you see?" The unmasked Uchiha asked him.
"Whose eye is that?" Naruto asked, pointing at the left eye with the naginata.
"It doesn't matter. Just like my name doesn't matter, despite what you might think." He stated, chucking the mask away and grabbing the chain attached to the sickle. "Obito does not exist anymore."
"Is that right?"
"Yes, it is."
"Then why are you still holding the goggles?" The naginata shifted its tip to the goggles held in his left hand.
He looked down at them and saw that his thumb had been idly rubbing the lens. Wordlessly, he dropped them to the ground and stepped on them. The glass cracking was the answer he gave. He began to spin the sickle around and around. When he charged at Naruto, he swung the chain, sending the sickle flying at the blonde.
The naginata shifted into the seventh version. Naruto spun it around, bending a shield of air that the sickle bounced off of harmlessly. While still moving the Zanpakutō, he caused it to shift into the second version and bent an arc of blue fire at his opponent. When Obito went through the fire, phasing past the fire and the heat, he shifted the naginata into the fifth version and struck the ground, bending up a small barrier of earth protect him from his opponent.
"Is that supposed to stop me, Naruto?" Obito asked as he threw the sickle around the barrier from one side and letting it hit the other while moving through the earth. He saw that the blonde had kept the chain from restricting him by using the shaft of his naginata. However, that caused him to turn his back to the barrier. "I have him." The Akatsuki member thought in triumph as he reached out and grabbed the blonde's shoulder, only to have it disappear in a cloud of smoke. "A Kage Bunshin?" was the silent, but surprised question he asked. On instinct, he stayed intangible.
That instinct saved him, as Naruto descended from above with the naginata in the eighth version. He tried to the pierce the former Uchiha with a lightning-encased tip, only to go through him and hit the ground, causing web-like cracks to be created. Once he realized that it didn't work, he rolled out of Obito and shifting the Zanpakutō into the fourth version, encased him in a cooling cocoon of lava. "Please tell me that got him." He mentally prayed.
"I think you know the answer to that." The fox said in reply.
"Again, color commentary, not needed now!" He snapped back as he stood up from his crouch position. For a second, he had hoped to think that it had worked, only to have that hope dashed when Obito walked through the cooling lava.
He didn't say anything. He charged at Naruto again, sickle in hand. Shifting the Zanpakutō into the sixth version, the blonde met him, crashing his weapon against the sickle. He almost lost his balance when the Zanpakutō suddenly went through the sickle and its wielder, taking him with it. But he stopped by thrusting the blade of the naginata into the ground. Bringing the rest of his body out of his opponent (which felt a little weird); he quickly whipped them back across and managed to knock Obito to the ground.
Trying to take advantage of what happened; he pulled the Zanpakutō out of the ground and swung down at the Akatsuki member, bringing a trail of corrosive acid with it. But it again struck ground, as Obito seemingly melted through the ground. "Where'd he go?" Naruto silently demanded as he looked around, trying to keep an alert lookout.
"Does it look like I know?" The Kyūbi asked him.
"For the love of everything holy and sacred underneath the gaze of Kami, WILL YOU STOP TALKING?" He bellowed inside his mind at the Bijū, his anger flaring.
"Ah, you don't need to shout!" The fox complained, wincing as the roar kept ringing in his ears. "Fine, I'll stop talking."
"By the way, look down."
"What?" He did look down and saw Obito's hand coming out of the ground and to him. He tried to get back, but the hand was too fast and grabbed hold of his upper leg.
"I would've thought Kakashi would have taught you to remember to look down." Obito commented as he came out of the ground. "It was a mistake that has cost you. I win." The air began to distort itself around his right eye, drawing towards it. Unable to do anything, the blonde was sucked into the distortion, disappearing into the eye.
As he captured Naruto, the Akatsuki member noticed the smile on his face and saw him mouth the words "Think again." A little confused by that, as his Sharingan was able to read lips perfectly, he wondered what that meant. "There's nothing he can do now, I have him." He thought to himself. Then he realized something. "Unless…he didn't make just one Kage Bunshin…!" A blaze of blue fire sailing through the air and towards answered that question. He tried to suck the fire into his eye, only to be surprised to see it move out of the path of his eye while still in the air. He tried to get out of its path, but was only partly successful as it grazed his left arm and gave him a burn.
"He did teach me to always look down." Naruto's voiced answered him as the blonde walked back into his view, the naginata in his hands being in its second version. "I was counting on you to do the same thing."
"You wanted one of those clones to be touched by me." He accused his opponent, his breath coming out in a hiss due to the burn.
"You must go somewhere when you disappear and I bet it has something to do with that right eye of yours. So I let you take a clone, just to see where he would end up."
He calmed himself down and looked at the blonde. Nothing showed on his face and neither did his eyes. "You are becoming an annoyance." He declared.
"I'll take that as a compliment." The blonde replied, shifting the Zanpakutō into the fifth version and sending rocks flying at him. He simply stood there and let the rocks fly through him. But he did flinch and grabbed his shoulder as blood leaked fast down his hand. "That's weird. All the rocks went right through him." Naruto noted.
"Katon: Gōkakyū no Jutsu!" shouted Obito as he flipped through handseals and breathed out a fireball. It went flying towards Naruto. But he blocked it by shifting his Zanpakutō into the third version and bending a shield of water against the fireball. Thrusting the naginata forward once the fireball had dissipated, he bent the water into a torrent and sent it straight at Obito. It went right though him, even as the blonde kept it up and made it bigger, until it covered all of him. When he tried to move away from the water, Naruto stayed with him.
When he finally let it stop, Obito didn't look any worse for the wear, except for the fact that his cloak had multiple cuts in it. "The water didn't do that." Naruto thought to himself. "So what did?" As if to answer the question, memories began to flood his mind. He winced at first, but he smiled. "I've got you now." He declared in silent triumph.
Obito, not being one to wait, swung the sickle at him again. This time, he tried something different. Ducking to avoid the sickle itself, he reached out grabbed hold of the chain. He pulled hard, hard enough to send his opponent flying. And he fly he did. Obito hadn't expected the chain to be grabbed or for it to be pulled. He was lifted up into the air and sent flying. When he saw the naginata pointing straight at him, he had no choice. He allowed himself to pass through the naginata and through.
But even as he passed through them and touched the ground safely, he let out a scream of pain and covered his left eye. There was a deep enough of a gash through the eye itself to render it useless and making him blind on his left side. "I guess that means it worked." He heard Naruto speak from behind him.
"What do you mean?" He demanded, spinning around to look at the blonde. Blood oozed between his fingers as he continued to hold his eye.
"I figured out how that little intangible trick of your works. You don't turn intangible at all, do you? You just move your body to a different dimension." The blonde accused him.
He briefly wondered how his opponent knew that. Then he realized that the clone had kept attacking him whenever he had slipped into the other dimension. It was why he kept moving around when the torrent of water was striking him; he was trying to avoid the attacks of the clone (it didn't really work, if the cuts on his cloak were anything to go by). "You certainly do know how to use clones." He commented.
"They're what got me to become a shinobi." Naruto replied. "And now, you can't try to phase through me or my attacks, otherwise you'll be attacked by my clone in the other dimension. The playing field has been leveled."
He was silent for a moment. Then he took off the cloak of the Akatsuki, not caring if it was being torn in the process, and dropped it onto the floor. "Very well, Naruto." He said as he unwrapped the chain the sickle was attached to (it had been wrapped around his waist). "If you wish to fight on a so-called 'leveled playing field', I shall indulge you." He began to swing the sickle and the end of the chain around and around. "But do not think that just because you can hit me, it means I am any less dangerous."
The blonde's reply was to shift his Zanpakutō into the first version and try to cover him in sand. He leapt high and swung the sickle down. Naruto bent the sand into a shield, stopping the sickle. But as he dropped it, Obito came in with a flying kick. It caught him square in the chest, making him fall down to the ground loudly. As he regained his bearings, he saw the sickle coming down. He wasn't sure where it was going to strike, but he didn't known if Obito simply wanted to contain him or try to kill him now.
Not wanting to find out, he shifted his Zanpakutō into the seventh version and managed to knock the sickle aside. He saw the end of the chain swinging in and rolled out of the way, letting it strike the ground. Standing up and shifting his Zanpakutō into the sixth version, he swung high, corrosive acid glistening on the blade. Obito saw the incoming strike before it happened and quickly sidestepped, allowing it to hit the ground. Sickle in hand; he swung for the blonde's shoulder, intent on disabling him.
Naruto saw the sickle incoming. Taking one hand off of his weapon, he quickly pulled out a kunai and blocked it. Sparks flew off of the two blades as they grated against each other. The fight stall as the two combatants tried to push through the other's defense. That is, until they both tried to kick the feet out from under the other. Their kicks met in mid-air and the air around them resounded with the sound of them meeting. They broke off and leapt back away from each other.
"Fūton: Shinkūken." Naruto said, doing the handseals while his hands were full (thus making take a little longer). He breathed the wind onto the kunai, sharpening it and lengthening it as well. Once it was ready, he threw it straight at Obito.
The member of the Akatsuki took hold of the middle section of the chain and held it out in the path of the kunai. When metal struck metal, he twisted the chain off to the side, sending the kunai flying away. But it had cut through the chain itself, leaving him with only half the length. Not one to be deterred, Obito grabbed the shortened end of the chain and began to swing the sickle like a flail.
He stepped towards Naruto, who shifted his Zanpakutō into the second version and began spinning it around, bending blue fire. He used the fire to try and keep his opponent away from him. The sickle was coming in hard and fast, whistling through the air and seemingly cutting the arcs of blue flame in half. And yet, Obito was slow to press forward. He knew that the closer he got, the less room he had to use the sickle as a flail, whilst his opponent wouldn't have such a problem (granted, he could grab the sickle by the handle when he got closer, but that would take precious seconds and if he miscalculated, Naruto would press his advantage).
The fire and the sickle continued to duel each other, their wielders always taking a step forward or a step back. It almost looked like they were dancing a very dangerous dance. Their faces were locked in equal expressions of concentration. Naruto finally took a chance after they had gone on like that for too long (at least, in his opinion). He shifted his Zanpakutō into the fourth version and swung high from below, lava trailing behind in an arc. While the blade didn't hit the sickle, the lava certainly did. It momentarily covered the sickle and that was all the blonde needed. He bent the lava to cool and then to slam into the ground.
As it broke apart, so did the sickle with it. The metal shattered and the pieces skidded all across the ground. The shaft of the sickle was charred and looked half-melted. When Obito pulled the chain back to him, half of the shaft broke off and stayed on the ground. He took off the other half and began swinging the chain again. He swung it at Naruto. Despite losing the sickle, it was still a weapon and he was intent on using it.
Naruto backed up as the chain swung in close, not letting it get close to him. Even without the sickle, the chain was a deadly weapon if used properly and Obito knew how to use it properly. The whistling the chain made as it swung through the air was enough to pierce the ears of anyone who left them unprotected. But as the blonde had the goggles over his ears, it was enough to dull the sound. Shifting his Zanpakutō into the sixth version, he began to attack the chain, striking the end with corrosive acid. The sparks flew again as the naginata and the chain struck each other. Link by link, the chain was slowly melting each time it was hit by the acid. But even though that was happening, Naruto was getting impatient.
"This is taking too long." He mentally growled as he knocked the chain away, corroding the next link away.
"Well, aren't you going to do something about it?" The fox asked, half sarcastic and half serious.
"No. I'd just thought I would plan on where to take Azula out next time." He replied, completely sarcastic. When the chain swung at him again, he didn't knock it away. Instead, he ducked and let it pass over his head. As it curved back around, it used the naginata's shaft to do so. Seeing his chance, Naruto stood back up and spun the naginata, wrapping the chain around it. Then he yanked hard. Obito had no desire to go flying again, so he let go of the chain.
As the chain flew straight at him, the blonde spun the Zanpakutō in the other direction, freeing the end of the chain on the shaft. Once it was done, he stepped off to the side and let it go right past him. He then shifted his Zanpakutō into the ninth version and stabbed the air, bending the force at the chain. The impact caused the chain to completely shatter, the fragments imbedding themselves into the nearby floor and wall. Trying to press his advantage, Naruto charged straight at his opponent. However, Obito had thought of the same thing, now that both his sickle and chain had been destroyed.
The two of them clashed again. Even though he was weaponless, Obito was a master at Taijutsu and still had a Sharingan to use. But the effect was only half as effective, due to the fact that his left eye had been all but destroyed, leading him to be blind on that side. Naruto kept trying to take advantage of that weakness by continually moving into that blind spot. Obito could still see him do it before he actually did because of his remaining Sharingan and reacted accordingly. He also prevented the blonde the full use of his naginata by keeping close and making him use it only for defense.
As the fight went on, Naruto was beginning to tire. Continually usage of his Zanpakutō was wearing down on him. He was still unused to it and that was becoming a liability. He needed to figure out a way to finish the fight. "Your strikes are getting slower, Naruto." Obito noted as he threw a kick at the blonde's midsection. "Are you getting tired?"
He blocked the kick with the naginata's shaft. "Don't think you can take me out easily." He replied with an almost growl. He tried using the other end of his Zanpakutō to knock the Uchiha's feet out from under him.
"I have never done so." The Akatsuki member replied, bringing his arm down to block the shaft. His opponent tried to take the opportunity to move into his blind side, but he followed with him. "But you are tiring; I can see it in how you move and how you fight."
"I can still beat you." The blonde promised him.
He couldn't help but laugh at that. "Have you been deluding yourself into thinking that you could?" He asked.
"I don't think. I know I can and will beat you." He swung the naginata from high, trying to cleave Obito in two. But the man simply spun to the side, letting the blade strike the ground and cause a crater.
"You have been deluding yourself." The Akatsuki member said in quiet satisfaction. "You actually thought that you could defeat me and claim victory, how incredibly naïve of you, Naruto." He threw a punch that got through and struck the blonde's side.
He hissed in pain as he felt the pain of the fist. "That's probably going to crack one of my ribs." The Fire Paragon noted to himself. "How is naivety to think I could beat you?" He demanded, still continuing the fight. He tried to get past his opponent's guard, but nothing seemed to get through.
"Simple facts," Obito answered. "You may have served in a war, I will grant you that. But so I have. I have not survived this long because I was very lucky. I studied, I trained, and I learned. I am better then you, Naruto, both mentally and physical then you. You lack the experience or the training to actually have a chance against me." He dodged a jab from the naginata.
"I don't believe that. You can't use your little trick to help you in this fight."
"Which I have admitted is quite impressive of you. But just because you've done one thing to me doesn't change the outcome. You thought you could win against me, but all you have actually done is just wear yourself down." He stated as he ducked under the naginata's swipe.
"That's not true. I can beat you." He would beat his opponent. He had to beat his opponent. If he lost, leaving Konoha and his friends behind would've been completely pointless. He had to keep going, to succeed in this fight. But even as the blows were parried and blocked, as the strikes and kicks kept coming and going, he began to feel more and more tired. His attacks were becoming slower and weaker.
Obito saw this and took advantage. He lunged in and began a vicious assault. He didn't let up; he just kept the assault going. Naruto tried to defend himself against it, but when he had been forced to drop his Zanpakutō to catch a kick, that when it was over for him. He tried to keep his defense up, but it was torn apart by barrage of punches and kicks. Pain came at him from every part of his body each time he was struck. In the end, he wasn't sure what it was that finished him. Maybe it was the punch to the shoulder or the knee to his stomach. But he hit the ground face-first. "This fight is over." Obito declared, standing over him.
As he laid there, his body in considerable pain and his mind almost overloading from that pain, he somehow heard those words. "…Over…?" He silently asked himself. "…No…it can't be…over. I…I have to…win. I have to beat him." Pushing past the pain, he reached out and grabbed his Zanpakutō. "I have to win." He tried to stand up.
"It's over, Naruto." His opponent told him as he just watched.
He refused to believe that. "No…not done…" He rasped as he forced himself to get on his knees.
"What was that?" His opponent asked him.
"I…am not…done." He answered, lifting himself up into a kneeling position. Every muscle in his body ached as he did this, but he couldn't stop there. He reached for his chakra and felt it flicker.
"I didn't hear you." The Uchiha said with confusion evident on his face.
"I'm…not…done." He repeated, his chakra getting stronger and stronger. Its blue energy began to show itself over his body. "I'm not…done." He said again, letting his chakra flow through his body and letting him forget the pain that riddled him. His refusal to stay down, his will to win, and basic desperation were enough to finally bring his chakra out in full force. As he stood up, he was bathed in a blue inferno. "I'M NOT DONE!" He roared into Obito's face. His chakra flared up in response to what he felt. It reached higher and higher as it began to look like creatures were trying to claw their way out. It soon became evident that those creatures were dragons and when they did finally form themselves, taking all of the chakra off of the blonde, there were nine of them looming over him.
Having seen what came next, Obito tried to get to safety. But he couldn't turn himself intangible (he wasn't sure if the clone was still there waiting for him), so he tried to turn and run. But the first dragon had already lunged and grabbed hold of him. There was nothing he could do, he was trapped.
Naruto leapt at his trapped target and began the barrage. Nine punches, nine kicks, and nine strikes from his Zanpakutō he gave to Obito before the dragon tossed the trapped Uchiha for the next dragon to grab him. The blonde held nothing back, pouring everything he had into the barrage. His Zanpakutō shifted versions with each dragon, adding the element that they carried.
When the eighth dragon had done its turn, it threw Obito up into the air. The ninth dragon flew up after him and encircled him, while Naruto leapt up and off of it to reach his target. He delivered twenty-six blows, flying through the air and then leaping off of the dragon. For the twenty-seventh, he leapt into the air, flying higher and higher. Once he reached the zenith, he looked down at his target and drew back his fist. He began to fall towards Obito, channeling his chakra into his fist. "Tenryūtei no Hoko!" He shouted, slamming his fist into the Uchiha's stomach. The chakra flowed through his fist, taking the form of the tenth and last dragon, whose majestic and regal look was the reason for the name. It clamped its teeth onto the Uchiha and flew straight at the ground, smashing into it.
The sound of the crash reverberated throughout the cave. When Naruto landed on the ground, he found Obito lying in a very shallow crater (whether that because it was very hard rock underneath or he simply didn't have enough to make the fifteen inch crater, the blonde didn't care at that point). He limped over to the fallen Uchiha, his chakra fading away. Once he stood over his opponent, he raised his Zanpakutō and stabbed the man in the heart. "Any last words?" He asked as he held the naginata down.
Obito was in pain, complete and utter pain. At some point in the barrage, he had been blinded in his right eye too. He knew he was dying, even before he felt the naginata pierce his heart. But he felt his life fading away, and even though he should've only seen darkness, the last thing he could see…was her. "Rin…" He said a whisper, trying to raise a hand to reach out to her. That whisper was his last and that hand never rose.
Once he was sure the man was dead, Naruto pulled his Zanpakutō out of Obito's chest. It morphed back into the form of a katana. He walked away from the body for a few steps before his legs gave away and he fell to his knees. "I…did it." He said in wonder, like he couldn't believe it. "I killed him. Everyone in the known Akatsuki is…dead." For some reason, he began to laugh. "The job's done. We can go now. It's…over." He almost couldn't believe the words, but there were true. He stayed there for a while, just relishing the fact that it was all over. When the pain began to fade away, he stood back up on shaky legs. "I guess it's time to leave." He said to himself, still trying to make sure he didn't fall down again.
"You do realize that you're a dead man once Azula gets her hands on you." The Kyūbi pointed out.
He smiled. "I know. I'm looking forward to it." That was when he felt the ground shake, almost making him lose his balance again. When he steadied himself, he looked around to see what had happened. When he looked upon the Gedō Mazō, he saw that all the eyes were opened, but only eight had pupils. Then he noticed that those eight pupils were looking straight at him and the arms were reaching for him.
Author's note: Thank you for all the reviews you've sent me.
Probably a lot of you are disappointed that I didn't write the fight scene between Naruto and Pain out in full. Let's face it: we know what would've happened. I'd figured that it was just better to go with a brief summery and the aftermath of the fight.
Naruto's Zanpakutō has been revealed. I would like to thank the author ABitterPill for helping figure out what the basic shape of the Shikai form looked like. As for its abilities, I figure that since it originally belonged to the Sage of the Six Paths, it should show somehow with Naruto. The hard (and somewhat annoying) part was figuring out what element would go with Bijū.
If any of you hadn't figured out already, the sound of a bell ringing that everyone had heard was the moment when Naruto had found balance with himself and completely repaired the Zanpakutō.
If any of you are unhappy of how I did the fight scenes, oh well. And I am well aware of the Izanagi and how it works, why do you think I had Naruto blind Obito during the fight?
And personally, I think Kakashi would've told his team that story, if they asked him about it. If he didn't, they would've badgered and/or annoyed him until he did. After that, and learning the right information, it's just a matter of connecting the dots.
I'll see you all next chapter!