I'm alive. I'm alive!
Riding on the back of a giant raven, Itachi Uchiha found himself playing the role of prey.
Flying at great speeds above the Land of Iron's mountains, the ninja and his summon were skillfully dodging dozens of incoming, bird-shaped bombs. A giant dragon of clay pursued them relentlessly across the skies, accompanied by an additional set of three giant, white birds.
"ITACHI!" Deidara stood atop his beast with maddened glee. "I have waited for this moment for so long! You will mock me no longer! My art is at its apex! Flashy! Instant! The purest form of explosive magnificence!"
We should be at a safe distance, Itachi thought, glancing at the snowy, deserted landscape. As the nukenin had expected, Deidara had completely abandoned his Akatsuki duties to focus exclusively on the Uchiha renegade. I can fight seriously here.
"Are you in position?" he spoke to the micro radio hidden near his neck.
"Roger. I have a visual," Yugao replied on the other end. "Ready at your mark."
"Stay as support for now, I will engage immediately."
"Now, Uchiha, feel the blast of my revenge!" Deidara laughed maniacally, clearly not noticing the man's conversation over the device. As if on cue, the clay dragon fired a winged missile at the traitor.
"Your art," Itachi replied, ordering his raven summon to go on the offensive, "Is has-been."
The raven obeyed. With a mighty flap of its ebony wings, it suddenly shot skyward, the missile missing and going on to crash below into a fiery, house-sized blast. Executing a looping maneuver, it moved right above the dragon, much to Deidara's surprise and displeasure. Two birds of clay instantly left the flock to try to intercept him.
Itachi jumped off his summon's back, the latter instantly vanishing in a puff of smoke right before the two birds could hit him. Instead they crashed against one another and erupted in a fiery blast.
In spite of the detonation, he landed gracefully on the dragon's back, facing a scared Deidara. "You red-eyed bastard!" the artist opened his hands, unleashing two clay humanoids upon the Uchiha. "Who gave you permission to be on my work?!"
Moving with blinding speed and contemptuous ease, Itachi got past the clay statues and rushed at Deidara. The artist immediately leaped off his ride and into the void right before he was caught.
Itachi glared frustrated as his target escaped him, sticking out his tongue as he fell through the air. "Die with style! KATSU!"
The Uchiha barely had the time to blink before the dragon he stood on detonated, blasting him to kingdom come.
Deidara laughed maniacally as he fell from the skies, the heat of the blast accelerating his fall. "I won! I finally won!"
Reality returned, along with a kunai pushed against his throat. His clay-soldiers laid in pieces, and Itachi right behind him. The scene had only happened in an illusion.
"Where is Pain? Tell me, and I will let you live." The Uchiha's tone was as monotonous as always, but that fact that it was right next to Deidara's ear infuriating him even more.
"Doing the nasty with Konan in Heaven, god style!" Despite his rage though, the bomber was smiling as if he was a savage child in a candy store, "Hey Uchiha, wanna know what's the greatest quality of an artist is?"
"I do not care."
Itachi's eyes widened as his arms were suddenly ensnared. Deidara's neck was slit in an instant… only to weep clay instead of blood.
"An artist is always improving!" the clay clone chuckled, increasing his grip.
As the dragon's clay skin transformed into restraints around Itachi's feet, further keeping him in place, the real Deidara erupted from the dragon's tail. "I trained my eye to resist the Sharingan, you uncultured imbecile!" Deidara gloated, opening his mouth and regurgitating a mass of clay shaped like himself. "Behold my amazing masterpiece, my C4!"
While Itachi struggled to escape and the C4 bomb kept growing, Deidara leapt off his dragon, landed on his remaining bird carrier, and flew off as far away as he could.
Turning around, Deidara saw his dragon fly away, the C4 bomb now a gigantic, bloated copy of the artist himself.
"So long sucker!" Deidara gave Itachi the middle finger with both hands. "KATSU!"
His C4 and dragon both exploded into a marvelous, fiery orgy of destruction. The sheer power blew away the nearby clouds, leaving an empty ring of dust across the sky.
"If THAT doesn't kill him…" He muttered, shielding his eyes from the dust with an arm.
The dust subsided, revealing Itachi surrounded by a fractured, orange armor of chakra, right at the detonation's epicenter.
"Oh come on!" He snarled in frustration, watching the Uchiha falling from the skies. Unwilling to take any chance of his hated foe, he began to mix another projectile with his hands. Either it would kill the bastard, or the explosion would weaken the armor enough to let C4 particles in to finish the job.
"It's no masterpiece, but it will-" A shadow went over him, causing him to raise his eyes. "Uh?"
Another giant raven dove from above, carrying a woman with a sword that immediately leapt at him.
Panicking, Deidara unleashed his projectile at the newcomer instead, but it didn't amount to much. The woman spun on herself midair, channeling the wind itself through her blade. She cut the projectile clean in half, both halves exploding behind her while she fell out of the detonation's range.
"C4-" The woman landed feet first on Deidara's face, interrupting the technique. The artist stumbled from his own bird, fell… only to be caught by the neck by the woman.
"Surrender," Yugao Uzuki commanded, standing atop Deidara's own creation while dangling the artist above the ground, her blade against his neck. "Deidara of the Earth, you are under arrest for threatening to assassinate the Five Kages, criminal conspiracy, acts of terrorism, and urban vandalism. Surrender, and you shall face lawful trial."
"I rather blow us all-" He never had the time to finish his sentence, as Yugao cut his left cheek, drawing blood. "YOU BITCH!"
"Surrender." Her tone brook no mercy, as she pointed her tanto at his neck. "Now."
The mad bomber clenched his teeth, doubly so when Itachi reappeared next to him, standing atop another giant raven. "I would obey if I were you," the Uchiha spoke softly, "She is less kind than I am."
Deidara raised his hands in surrender, and sulked angrily.
Materializing wings at full throttle, Fuu dodged a volley of piercing threads and observed the battlefield.
Kakuzu's partner, Hidan, had turned into a Curse-Seal abomination. A giant with brown thick skin, claws, fangs, a long white maw and an even longer tail. It was no stretch to say that he was the very picture of a demon. He even made Han, who had engaged him into a wrestling match, look like a dwarf. The chakra rods implanted in his body, the same as Pain's corpse bodies, radiated with purple energy.
"Almighty Jashin shall devour your soul," Hidan hissed, his every steps causing the ground to shake beneath his feet. "I fear not the world, for God is with me!"
"Sorry, the Han created the universe, and He doesn't remember anyone called that." The Han dodged a raging punch from his foe, which went through the bridge's bricks, making the whole structure shake. The Gobi's vessel retaliated with a steam-powered kick to Hidan's face.
The blow would have sent a man flying away.
The Akatsuki monster was barely fazed. Instead, he grabbed Han's feet, turned around on himself, and threw his foe away like a ragdoll. Han used steam to control his landing, a look of determination on his face.
Trusting her friend to handle Hidan, Fuu focused back on her own opponent.
She knew Kakuzu of the Waterfall like children knew of the boogeyman. The man had been Takigakure's most fearsome and dreaded nightmare. An immortal killer hunting down their ninjas and mercilessly harvesting their hearts.
While the prospect of facing him head-on scared her a little, Fuu knew all about him. From his Earth Grudge Fear technique, to his fighting style, focusing on the five elemental releases and combining them to deadly effects.
So, when Kakuzu launched a cube of energy at her with both hands, she had no idea what was happening.
Barely dodging the projectile, the flying Jinchuuriki watched on the cube hit nearby trees, vaporizing them instantly.
"What was that?" she thought out-loud, "Iwa's Dust Release?"
"You're smart, figure it out," Kakuzu replied, his back erupting into a maw of threads. The threads gathered into two knotted tentacles, each with a mask at the end: a hawk-mask on the left, and a boar-mask on the right.
His hawk-mask opening its beak and firing a white, electrified beam at her. "Storm Release!" Kakuzu snarled, trying to hit Fuu with it.
Flying as fast as she could, Fuu circled Kakuzu with his laser on her tail, retaliating with a cloud of exploding, golden dust. The boar-mask opened, releasing a Dust Cube, vaporizing the dust in its path into nothingness.
He stole the hearts of Bloodline Users, Fuu realized, horrified.
The Earth Grudge Fear could allow up to four spare hearts, for a total of five. What else did he have up his sleeves?
"You're not making any speech to recruit us?" Fuu asked, channeling the Nanabi's chakra, manifesting four tails-wings and a coat of green chakra.
"No," Kakuzu replied, "I am not sentimental like Sasori. You've caused us too much trouble to be allowed to live." In a supreme act of confidence, as if to show Fuu how little he feared her, he stopped attacking to look at Hidan. "Hurry up and finish him off!"
The monster was just done uppercutting Han, shattering most of his chest-armor and propelling him into the sky. The Gobi's jinchuuriki soon reached the peak of his ascent lifelessly, then reversed the process, using a burst of steam to quicken his descent in a clearly controlled and life filled manuver, turning into a vaporous meteor.
"The Han's Dove Bombing Special!" He shouted proudly, impacting directly on a maddened Hidan.
The Han smashed his foe through the bridge, blasting the building into flying bricks, dust and steam. Both monsters crashed into the river below, vanishing beneath the waves. While Fuu flew away from the devastation, Kakuzu, surprised, fell into the waters below, landing on the surface by channeling chakra through his feet.
"Ice Release," Kakuzu shouted upon landing, releasing another, white bear-faced masked tentacle. The mask breathed a frosty wind, turning the river below Kakuzu to ice to trap both Han and his own teammate. He probably intended to suffocate Fuu's partner, while his own would survive the experience.
Fuu fell upon him like a hawk, turning one of her chakra wings into a clawed fist to hit him with. Kakuzu protected himself with both hands, his body turning to steel. The chakra hammer hit him with enough force to make the ice below crack slightly, but Kakuzu held still unperturbed.
Easily pushing Fuu back, he unleashed a fourth, dragon-shaped mask at her. It began to vomit lava projectiles at her at unrealistic rates, forcing her back. Before she could retaliate, Kakuzu's other tentacles began to fire at her as well. Faced with ice spikes, lava balls, disintegrating cubes and light beams, Fuu found herself using all her maneuverability and skill to just stay alive.
Ice, Lava, Storm, Dust, Steel. Chomei's voice resonated in Fuu's head.
He uses his elements in their most basic, primitive form, Fuu thought with frantic panic, narrowly avoiding a dust cube, He has the raw power of the original Bloodline holders, but none of their original techniques.
But when that 'raw power' involved blasting matter into molecules, this made little difference.
Ice erupted, as Hidan broke through, holding Han by the throat and left leg. The mutant smashed Han against the ice once like a ragdoll, hit him in the chest with his knee, then opened his jaw to try rip Han's skull off. Han unleashed a burst of steam right at the Akatsuki member's eyes, causing him to release the Jinchuuriki with a snarl of pain. The Han used the opportunity to raise his hand, and utter fateful words.
"The Han's Castration Fist!"
Fuu turned her head away in horror, as Hidan's snarls of anger turned into painful whining. "Han, that's disgusting!"
"The Han does not tolerate non-believers." Leaving Hidan to clutch his manhood in pained agony, Han focused on Kakuzu, charging at him and interrupting his assault on Fuu. The bounty hunter leaped backward, barely inconvenienced. Before Fuu could try to assist Han, the Dragon and Bear Tentacles fired at her, keeping her at bay.
"Before coming here, we raided all the resources Akatsuki gathered over the years, including test subjects," Kakuzu declared boldly. "You know why ninjas fear Mei Terumi?"
"The Han thinks she's booby-trapped."
"She has two Kekkai Genkai." Kakuzu let his four masks-tentacles flare with various shades of chakra. "I have five of those."
"Meh, the Han has ten, he just doesn't feel like using them. You're tough, but not as tough as the Han."
"Doubtful. But ask yourself: who do you think I got the Lava Release from?"
Han's eyes widened in surprise, then realization, then into steely fury. He burst out with white chakra, with a fiery intensity Fuu hadn't seen from him. The ice beneath him was melting at his contact, as he gathered steam. "You will die by the hand of the Han!" the Jinchuuriki thundered, readying himself for attack. "Steam-"
He couldn't finish his sentence, as an enraged Hidan tackled him from behind, seizing him with both arms around his chest and trying to crush him in half. An equally angry Han tried to struggle, but found himself pinned by the Akatsuki member.
"Good boy, hold him still," Kakuzu said, pointing his boar-mask at them, "I take back everything I said, Hidan: you were good at something in the end."
Much to Fuu's horror, the Waterfall ninja fired a Dust Release attack at both Han and his partner. Fuu instantly rushed at them, only to be held back by a wall of lava.
Han, seeing the attack coming, managed to anchor himself to the ground with one leg, then abruptly bowed with all his strength. Surprised, Hidan was tossed off the ground, into the cube's path.
The dust projectile expanded upon hitting Hidan, vaporizing the monster into molecules.
Kakuzu didn't waste time, and fired a powerful Storm blast at Han before he could stand up again. Blindsided, the Jinchuuriki was hit full on, and blasted against the rock wall surrounding the river, and knocked out cold. "Now your heart will join your friend's, to serve me forever," Kakuzu gloated.
"You attacked your own teammate!?" Fuu couldn't believe her eyes, disgusted by the man's callousness.
"He was never my teammate!" Kakuzu snarled back, raising his tone for the first time in the entire fight, before calming himself again. "Just a tool to be used and discarded."
"Don't you care about anything?" For once, Fuu was well and truly enraged. Her blood began to mix with her chakra, as a fourth, then fifth wing grew out of her back. Her body stronger than ever, she rushed to shield Han, Kakuzu's Ice and Lava attacks bouncing off her skin.
"Only power and money," Kakuzu replied, gathering all his chakra into his Hawk-Mask, the Storm energy turning into a white sphere not unlike a Tailed Beast Bomb. "Pain, Tobi, whoever, it doesn't matter, as long as I get ahead."
"You have never seen true power," Fuu replied, a sixth wing growing out of her back as she shielded Han with her body. An insectoid exoskeleton formed around her bloodied body, while she gathered energy into her mouth."Do you even understand how powerful I am, Kakuzu? The flapping of my wings could destroy buildings. Always, I must be careful never to go too far, to kill someone by accident, to let the full might of Nana cause another disaster. What Naruto did to Ame, I can easily do worse."
Her green sphere quickly eclipsed in size Kakuzu's own, the weights of their respective techniques causing the landscape to shake. "No matter," Kakuzu replied, his hawk-mask swallowing the sphere and preparing to fire a deadly, apocalyptic blast, "I will kill you, and then finish the Gobi and the Kyuubi off."
"But to protect my only friends…" Fuu swallowed the sphere."I will go all-out! Bijuudama!"
Both Kakuzu and the transformed Fuu unleashed a massive blast of energy at one another, one white, the other emerald green. Both attacks hit one another and struggled from supremacy, each fighter struggling to stay anchored on the ground and keep the pressure on.
For a few seconds, the attacks seemed equal in power…
Then Fuu tried seriously.
Her beam overwhelmed Kakuzu's like a raging flood, vaporizing his masks, clothes, and then continuing to ravage the landscape. The river evaporated under the pressure and heat, and the light of the beam illuminated the entire area.
However, when the light subsided, leaving only a massive cloud of dust behind, Kakuzu stood, his steel skin burning hot, but intact.
"I do not need to breath, or eat, or drink. My body is invulnerable, and I have enough chakra to maintain this state for days." Kakuzu walked out of the devastation confidently, waiting for the Jinchuuriki to emerge from the dust. "I have fought your kind before, stronger vessels of the Seven-Tails than you will ever be."
"You may have fought other Jinchuuriki in the past…" Fuu replied ominously, her voice grave and unforgiving, "But you have never fought me."
Kakuzu blinked, as Fuu emerged from the dust not as a human, but as the Seven-Tails fully manifest. A massive, yet elegant, rhinoceros beetle the size of a titan blew away all the debris in the landscape with the passive flapping of its ethereal wings.
And it was charging right at Kakuzu.
The Missing-nin couldn't dodge out of range, as the Bijuu grabbed him within its legs, then darted upward to the skies. The Bijuu went through the clouds at high speed, while Kakuzu unsuccessfully tried to break himself out of its grasp. Only his Steel Body Jutsu kept his organs from crumbling under the speed and motion energy and the rapid shifts in air pressure.
Within a minute, they went through the upper atmosphere, reaching the starry sky beyond. Ice began to slowly cover Kakuzu, cooling of his iron skin, while the Nanabi easily shrugged it off with its wings.
Then, upon reaching near the point where gravity itself held no sway, Fuu launched Kakuzu away. "You think this is over?!" the missing-nin shouted angrily, trying to get a hang on his trajectory. Due to the lack of air, his voice felt soft and distant. "I will survive this fall and when I do-"
"I will not kill you," Fuu replied, gathering her chakra into a Bijudama and quickly firing the sphere at her foe. Kakuzu barely had the time to snarl in impotent rage, as the projectile impacted on his body, pushing him further back through the atmosphere, eventually escaping earth's gravity. The Bijuudama exploded into a joyful firework, illuminating the darkness.
Fuu watched on, as Kakuzu, now a small point on the horizon, drifted aimlessly through space towards the distant moon.
Unable to deviate from his terrible course, he soon vanished from her sight.
"A swift death is too good for you."
Obito was racing for his life through the corridors, outrunning explosions and background detonations.
Did he trap the whole building? The Uchiha wondered, as he pushed chakra into his legs. He had teleported to another part of the fortress twice already, and encountered bombs each time. How the blond managed to turn the place into a death trap in such a short amount of time, he had no idea.
Worryingly, the Uchiha couldn't sense any chakra around him. Naruto had abandoned using explosive tags, which he could detect, for traditional explosives.
Turning intangible had also been out of question. Naruto and Gai's wretched pupils had already pieced up the weakness of his jutsu and Obito suspected the boy had taken measures to counter it somehow. Instead, he had focused on running through the corridors, guessing that Naruto was leading him through a carefully preselected path. He would probably ambush him at the very end.
In fact, Obito was counting on it, fully intending to turn this trap around.
Konoha might have been informed of his endgame, but he still had kept a few aces in the hole secret from everyone, even his inner circle. For this last stand, he had spared no expense.
And Naruto would face him one-on-one to prove himself. Obito knew the blond couldn't resist turning this brawl into a duel, no matter the consequences. This suited Akatsuki's leader just fine.
This fight was personal for both of them.
The explosions eventually stopped, but Obito kept racing forward, ready to find himself face to face with his nemesis. Turning around a corner, he found his suspicions confirmed, as an arrow came straight for him.
On instinct, he turned intangible, letting the arrow phase harmless through his head…
And then his ears bled.
Obito grunted in pain and tripped, his whole body disoriented… but not before the impossible happened.
A second arrow hit him in the left shoulder.
While he remained intangible.
Quickly recovering, and before his foe could launch another arrow, Obito joined his hands and slammed them to the ground. A wall of fire formed from his fingertips and moved forward, consuming all in its path. He could hear the blond run away before the flames could ensnare its target.
Getting back to his feet, which turned out more difficult than expected due to dizziness, Obito tried to turn intangible. He would phase through the walls, intercepting the blond on the other side.
His body remained physical, unable to go through stone. Snarling in incomprehension, Obito attempted to drag the entire room into his pocket dimension. "Kamui!" he shouted.
Pain raced through his head, as his view briefly shifted into the sight of his pocket dimension, then back to the flaming corridor. What is happening? Obito's angry thoughts suddenly turned fearful. Could that brat have negated my Sharingan?
No. While dizzied, his vision remained supernaturally sharp. Then…
Turning his eye to the arrow still embedded in his flesh, Obito sternly grabbed it with his hand and removed it, ignoring the droplets of blood falling down. As he expected, he noticed something unusual right behind the arrow's head: a small electronic device.
It looked like a miniature version of Dosu's melody device. Glancing over his shoulder, he noticed another such device on the first arrow.
How? He should have sensed a chakra pulse from it! Obito ripped the device open, revealing a miniature, electric battery within.
That explained it. His inner ear had been damaged. His space-time ninjutsu needed intense coordination to turn some body parts and not others intangible, preventing him from falling through the earth and maintain an anchor into the physical world.
He could activate his Kamui, but couldn't control it.
How long would the effect last? Minutes, hours? Accelerated healing did not tend to be as efficient when it was applied to the more intricate and complicated parts of the human body. In any case, he couldn't risk using his normally most reliable asset. One wrong move, and he might teleport some parts of his body into his pocket dimension while severing them from the rest. Naruto had neutralized his strongest, most versatile technique.
After flexing his limbs for a few seconds, trying to get a hang on his movements, Obito grabbed his Gunbai and unleashed a burst of wind around himself. After putting down the flames he had himself summoned, he slowly walked through the corridor, on guard.
"Here kitty, kitty kitty…" Tobi sung. "Come on out kitty. I got a nice plastic bag with your name on it…"
His search eventually led him to a vast, stony hall. He guessed this must have been a samurai training place of some sort. He briefly caught glimpse of the Jinchuuriki at the other end, who had traded his bow and arrows for an iron rod of some sort.
However the next move didn't come from the rod. Instead, dozens of kunai and shuriken fell on him from all directions the instant he set foot in the room.
Swinging his Gunbai in a powerful, forceful sweeping movement, Obito released a burst of wind around him, repelling the metal rain. However, after the burst of air died down, leaving him open to attack, Naruto pointed his iron rod at the Uchiha. A tremendous burst of flames came out of it.
Instead of dodging, Obito fought the urge to turn intangible and let the flames go through him. Battle instincts honed after years of battle were now working against him. The Uchiha used his Gunbai as a shield, the stream of fire impacting on it and soaking the fabric with flammable liquid.
The Gunbai caught fire, forcing Obito to toss it away before it spread to his cloak. "Trying to copy my fire release?" Obito taunted his foe, joining his palms. "Let me show you real ninjutsu. Wood Release: Great Spear Tree!"
Countless, sharpened roots, each thicker than the mightiest tree, erupted from the ground, shattering stones and bricks. Taken by surprise, Naruto barely avoided being impaled by jumping to the side.
"Surprised?" Obito taunted his enemy with sadistic glee. "Have you prepared for that? And I thought you had a green hand!"
As he had suspected, the roots set off land mines Naruto had placed between them. Explosions blinded Obito's field of vision as new roots sprung up, transforming the hall into a primeval forest that happened to be erupting everywhere. The roots didn't stop though, impaling the ceiling, causing it to collapse and reveal the snowy sky above.
"Earth Release: Hiding Like a Mole Technique." Obito merged with the ground with a kunai in hand, avoiding death by crushed debris. Navigating between roots while trying to locate his foe, he waited for the chaos above to subside. Finally, sensing unusual movement above, he sprang from the ground from behind and beheaded his foe.
A wooden head fell to the ground. Instead of a corpse, he was facing a scarecrow dressed like his hated foe, a note etched on its back.
Angry bees emerged by the hundreds from the scarecrow, taking Tobi by surprise. "Uchiha Flame Formation!" Slamming his hands to the ground, the Akatsuki leader surrounded himself with a barrier of flames, incinerating the angry insects and setting the nearby roots on fire.
As the barrier subsided, Obito found his entire surroundings covered in flames and dust, as the forest turned into a blazing inferno. With difficulties seeing through the smoke, the Uchiha decided to activate his second, secret trump card… a souvenir from Orochimaru's labs.
His right eye opened, revealing not red, but white.
His field of vision expanding, Obito noticed the Fuma Shuriken thrown at him from behind. Back flipping above the projectile, the Uchiha rotated midair and landed on the other side, facing Naruto.
The blond emerged from the flames at full speed, rushing at the Uchiha with a hand on the pommel of his sword. Obito joined his hands, ready to incinerate the masked brat with a final Katon technique.
Moving so fast even his Sharingan couldn't follow it, Naruto unsheathed his blade at blinding speed and cut off Obito's left hand. "Argh!" Obito snarled in pain and surprise.
"Green hand, more like no hand!" Naruto taunted viciously, his blue eyes radiating with pure hatred behind his fox mask. "That's for Anko." Without wasting time, he impaled Obito through the heart before the Uchiha could recover.
… Which didn't inconvenience him in the slightest.
"Too bad, brat. I ain't got a heart to break."
Obito suddenly grabbed the blade with his hand and pulled it further through his flesh. His surprised enemy lost hold over his weapon, giving the Uchiha an opening.
A spear of wood sprung from the man's arm, piercing the Jinchuuriki through the right side of his waist.
Naruto swallowed a scream of pain as he retreated with a few steps back and dodged, just as Obito threw the wooden spear at his head. With acute reflexes, the Jinchuuriki found himself back against a flaming route, with no retreat, but head still intact.
"Wow…" In spite of the wound, Naruto remained supremely confident. "I knew you were heartless, but not literally."
Obito briefly worried the Nine-Tails would reemerge after such a bloody wound, but instead, Naruto grabbed two large knives from behind his back.
"Ah… ahah! You're not going to use the Nine-Tails' chakra to save yourself?" Obito removed the Kusanagi from his chest with his remaining hand, intent on killing his nemesis with his own weapon. "Scared? Then again, you did kill your girlfriend last time. How did it feel, to watch a loved one die before your eyes?"
"Funny, last time I met Tenten she looked fine," Naruto clenching his teeth, readying himself for attack.
"After I'm done with you she'll be dead for real." Obito rushed at his foe and quickly closed the gap between them, swinging the Kusanagi vertically. Forming a cross with his two knives, Naruto parried the blow right above his head. The sheer strength behind the attack pushed him within a hair's breadth of the fire behind him.
With a powerful push, Naruto repelled the Kusanagi and sent it flying above their heads, then attempted to slash at Obito. The Uchiha dodged with a step back, firing seed bullets from his remaining hand. Naruto quickly deflected them with his knives, before throwing them at the Akatsuki leader's mask.
Thanks to the Sharingan, Obito managed to dodge both attacks, but not what came next. Grabbing the spear Obito had thrown at him earlier, Naruto used it as a support to jump high above. Then, grabbing the Kusanagi by the pommel midair, he fell upon the Uchiha like a hawk. "And that one is for Gai!"
Caught off guard, Obito felt the cold embrace of death, as the blade pierced his mask and impaled his head.
Re-materializing a few feet away, Obito threw away his cloak with his left hand, revealing dozens of Sharingan implanted on his nude torso and back. They stared at Naruto lifeless, as one of them turned white and useless.
"The Uchiha Massacre…" Obito could almost see the Jinchuuriki's disgust and dread past his mask. "How many people have you killed?"
"Hard to say, I'm bad at math. Maybe I will add your eyes to the lot, after you're gone? You know, for old time's sake. Your mother had the same look when she died."
Wielding the Kusanagi with both hands, Naruto adopted a battle stance.
Unimpressed, Obito let a wooden blade sprung from his remaining arm. "Come to think of it, this is going to be a wonderful moment, isn't it? The moment I complete my set of dead Namikaze," Obito taunted, before going on the offensive.
Blade against blade, the duelists engaged into a final dance of death among the flames.
Even in his sorry state, the Uchiha still had the Sharingan. Predicting his foe's moves and quickly capitalizing on any openings, the nukenin slashed at Naruto's cheek, waist and shoulders, drawing blood each time. The blond managed to deflect lethal blows, focusing on protecting his vitals…
But the blood on his left side kept pouring through, and the pain was reaching its peak. Obito, sensing the weakness, pushed his attacks on the left side, increasing the pressure.
And then the Uchiha learned the meaning of pain.
His whole body suddenly flared into agony. It felt like a thousand needles started pushing from within his flesh and head. It was unbearable.
Obito collapsed to his knees, using his shoulder to avoid falling on his chest. It was like getting crushed under those boulders again.
"It's over," Naruto said ominously. "I've won."
Obito glared impotently at his foe, as the blond raised his sword like an executioner. "That one is for the Yondaime."
All turned dark again.
Sacrificing another of his spare Sharingan, Obito returned from the dead, facing his foe with his sword in hand. "It's over when you're dead… argh!"
The pain quickly returned, as vivid and agonizing as the first time. Once again, he collapsed. This time on his chest. Naruto walked next to the helpless Uchiha, putting his blade through his head again. "That one is for mom."
Akatsuki's leader returned from the dead a third time, and promptly collapsed once more.
"You've lost, red eye. That should be a no-brainer." Apparently happy of his last joke, Naruto took some time to watch Obito squirm this time. The humiliation felt even worse than the physical pain.
How? How did it kept happening? The Izanagi could overcome death itself!
Naruto apparently read his mind. "Danzo kept files on you… and on the Uchiha's techniques. One of them interested me a lot. Want to tell me which one?"
Izanagi. That one-eyed bastard…
"That ability is bullshit," Naruto said, putting a hand on his main wound to prevent it from bleeding further. "Rewriting your own fate? Undoing your death, just in exchange for one eye? How can it even work? I figured out a technique as powerful as this one had to have a flaw, and lo and behold… I found it."
Izanami? Obito thought, unable to focus with his brain on fire. No…
"When you undo your fate, your body is restored to the state it was in before your death. Just before its activation. It doesn't restore your chakra reserves. All injuries you suffered from before the lethal blow are carried over."
Naruto's eyes narrowed on his nemesis with quiet delight.
It clicked. "The arrow…" Obito trailed off, clenching his fist.
"I knew you would be more focused on the melody device on the arrow to examine the tip closely," Naruto gloated. "It took way longer than it should have for the toxin to take effect due to your metabolism, I almost thought it didn't work."
"You little shit…" the Uchiha snarled, unable to rise back up. "I will cast Izanagi again and when I do…"
"Doesn't matter how many times you use it. The toxin will remain in your system each time you return from death. It only cancels the wounds you suffered when you activate the technique, not those inflicted before."
Naruto raised the Kusanagi. "Now, where were we? That one is for all the victims of the Kyuubi attack."
All went dark.
"That one is for the Uchiha you massacred."
"That one is for Danzo Shimura."
"That one is for Konan."
By the tenth time, Obito tried to Kamui away, consequences be damned, but the blond slew him before he could.
Rinse and repeat.
"That one is for Kiri."
All went dark again.
It happened, again and again and again… Obito tried to crawl away, to beg for his life, only for Naruto to assault him relentlessly.
"Wow, I killed you seventeen times, and I still have names. You're a real piece of work."
By the time he exhausted his very last Sharingan, the one who had been his own since birth, he shook with dread, as he saw death itself come for him with his Byakugan.
"And the last one," Naruto raised his Kusanagi for a final execution. The doomed man briefly glimpsed the ghosts of his former team watching on from behind his killer, angry and disappointed. "Is for me."
Obito Uchiha let out a final, defiant, spiteful snarl, as the blade fell one last time.
He didn't stand up again.
Panting in cathartic exhaustion, struggling to keep the blood from flowing from his wound, Naruto stood over the corpse of his most lethal and hated foe, ready to collapse himself.
Half expecting the Uchiha to revive once more, the Jinchuuriki waited a whole minute in unbroken silence, with only the sound of the background flames for company. When Obito remained still, the reality of what happened dawned on him.
The man single-handedly responsible for ruining his life, the murderer of his parents and mentor, the killer who shed so much innocent blood, laid dead at his feet.
It was over.
He had won.
He had won, without reinforcements, without chakra, without Samsara, without the Kyuubi, without cheats. He had defeated a foe the Yondaime himself - nor even the Nine-Tails - couldn't beat, an S-Rank criminal that made the world tremble, by himself.
This victory was his alone.
All these years of training and suffering, all these researches and preparation, all these sacrifices, had finally paid off. He had triumphed over his handicap. No one could dispute it.
He had proved all those who never believed he could become a ninja, wrong.
He had shed his snake's skin, and become a dragon.
Naruto raised the Kusanagi to the sky, and roared in triumph.
A/N: thanks Third Fang for betaing.
I'm back! I would like to sincerly apologize to you, my readers, for the long wait.
You know when I said it wouldn't take me one year to release the next chapter, I certainly didn't expect for it to take two... I've been quite busy in the meantime. I finished my law studies with honors, moved around Europe, published an original fiction e-book, started my own company with friends of mine, and just kept blazing through life.
But Atlas (and Property Damage) has always been in the back of my mind and I couldn't, in good conscience, leave the story unfinished so close to the big finish. Hell it even interfered with my attempts to write original fiction, as I kept flashing back to scenes I wanted to write in Atlas mid-writing. I concluded that to advance as a writer, I must fulfill my promise to you all and myself by finishing what I started.
I hope you enjoyed the chapter, especially the duel between Obito and Naruto. That fight has been in my mind since I started planning Atlas, and been one of the few key scenes that inspired the story (alongside the opening intro and the final battle, which I won't spoil). It was written to be the climax of a lot of the story's themes and Naruto's personal development, as the first fight he won 'fairly' against a high level Ninja.
I would say next chapter will take less time but I've been notoriously bad at deadlines, so... I'll do my best!
So, would you kindly leave a review?