Disclaimer. I do not own Naruto, nor any of the characters involved in the series.
The pain of a new day.
"Really Kakashi, you should see yourself. It's pathetic."
Kakashi gasped for air, his back on the ground, the tiny stones and pebbles digging in uncomfortably. His mask was in tatters, bits of frayed cotton flying into his mouth with every gasp and irritating his throat. He had no chakra left, the drain making his limbs heavy and useless. His Sharingan, Obito's Sharingan was bleeding, useless. But that was all trivial when he compared it to the pain in his abdomen. A Chidori attack, his own attack used against him. The smell of his own burning flesh was enough to make him want to gag but he just didn't have the energy. He didn't have much time left. Didn't have much time left to live nor complete the mission. He'd failed his mission.
"And to think I once looked up to you, the great Copy-nin of the Hidden Leaf village." Sasuke's mocking voice was loud, the only sound in the world around them. The field they were on was littered with the bodies of the fallen. Shinobi from every Hidden village imaginable were there, dead. It was just Sasuke and Kakashi now, and he had failed.
The crunch of gravel next to Kakashi's ear was even louder than Sasuke's voice, yet it was starting to sound distant to him. Far, far away. If his closed his eyes, stopped fighting . . . then it would be over for him. No more fighting, no more war, no more failure and no more heart ache.
"Oh no you don't." Sasuke growled using his foot to step on the charred hole in his body. Kakashi's eyes flew open with a gasp but he would not allow Sasuke any further victory.
"I don't think I'm going to let you off that easy Kakashi. Let me see, what would be the most fitting punishment for you . . ." Sasuke was talking to himself now, his voice thoughtful. Punishment, it was always about punishment with the Uchiha. Everyone had done him a great personal wrong. The world had insulted him by simply spinning. If you were lucky, he saw you as no more than a speck of a Shinobi that insulted him by merely breathing. Killing you was a mercy.
If you were unlucky enough to have actually known the Uchiha from before he became the monstrosity he was at the moment, grew up with him, trained with him, trained him, well then he got a little more creative, vindictive. Like the Chidori blow. It had been unnecessary. Kakashi had been defeated the moment Sasuke had destroyed his Sharingan. Apparently he was insulted that Kakashi, a Shinobi with no Uchiha blood welded the powerful weapon.
Those red and black eyes swam into Kakashi's line of sight. He didn't give the Uchiha the pleasure of turning his remaining eye towards him. As it was he was staring at a dark cloudy sky and for that he was grateful. He didn't want to see the battle field around him. He didn't want to see the fallen Shinobi that he had been fighting alongside only an hour or so, less than, before.
Mostly though, he didn't want to see the spiky blond hair, mattered with red specks of blood. He didn't want to see the still brightly dressed Shinobi. Those bright colours dulled by the dirt and blood around them. He didn't want to see Naruto, lying on the ground, unmoving, eyes wide and gaping at a world he could no longer see.
"Ah, I know." Sasuke announced loudly bringing Kakashi crashing back to his reality. Sasuke plucked a small bottle from where he had placed it somewhere in the folds of his clothing. Something rattled inside. From the sounds of it, there couldn't be very many in there. Sasuke opened it and reached two fingers inside and pulled out a tiny round ball.
"You should feel honoured Kakashi, these are from my own personal stash. There aren't very many of these left." Sasuke said with a mocking sigh before dropping the ball into Kakashi's gasping mouth.
He refused to swallow it. Even if he choked on it, he refused. He would not give the Uchiha the pleasure. He didn't know what the ball did but he was certain it wasn't a good thing. He coughed and spluttered and he tried not to swallow the tiny black ball, he could feel it, tried to spit it out but Sasuke snarled in anger and clamped a hand on his mouth.
"You're not wasting something that valuable. Swallow it!" Sasuke was far too used to getting what he wanted. Kakashi wouldn't give in. Sasuke could suffocate him for all he cared. Kakashi had accepted the fact that he was going to die on this field. Sasuke was just playing with a broken toy.
The Uchiha narrowed his eyes in annoyance before picking up a discarded canteen that was unluckily within reach. He opened it and poured the water inside into Kakashi's mouth. The boy was daft if he thought that would make a difference.
But it was Kakashi who underestimated his desperate and damaged body's instinct to survive. His body thought he was drowning and automatically swallowed. He coughed and gasped for air, silently berating his pathetic actions. He was as good as dead. Why wouldn't his body accept that?
"Good. Now let's see. . ." Sasuke continued in that thoughtful yet mocking tone. His voice was drowned out by the pain that suddenly blazed to life in Kakashi. It was like the Chidori all over again, only far worse. His teeth snapped together in his attempt not to yell out. His entire body was tensed up, using energy he hadn't even known he had left.
"Now really Kakashi, not even a whimper. Oh well this is only half the fun. See I gave you one of the most forbidden food pills known to the Shinobi world. There were only ever a few made. They have the ability to heal any wound, and quickly. But like all things in the Shinobi world every action has a reaction and this one is extreme pain, hence the forbidden part." Sasuke had barely managed to get the explanation out between the chuckles of laughter.
Kakashi could feel it, the muscles in his abdomen forcefully pulling together as the wound repaired itself at a drastically unnatural pace. This was almost doing more damage than good. Why? Why was Sasuke healing him? To cause more pain. That answer was simple enough.
Sasuke ran a finger over the scar over his left eye. Even the Sharingan was repairing itself. "Almost done." Sasuke whispered almost lovingly, his eyes half closed with a small smile on his face. What came next?
All at once Kakashi's body went limp, the throbbing spots on his body the only pain left from the wounds of battle he had received at Sasuke's hands. Before he could react, before he could even explore his body and its condition any further, Sasuke started making hands signs and gathering chakra.
He slammed his palm onto Kakashi's chest, releasing the chakra and pouring the jutsu into Kakashi. What now, what more could Sasuke possible do to him?
The skin around Sasuke's palm heated up and began to burn. Kakashi's eyes, both repaired and working, widened. His fingers clawed into the pebbles at his side. He thought he had known pain before but he had been wrong.
He screamed before he could stop himself. Sasuke's smirk grew wider and the burn intensified. It felt like every cell in his body was being burst one by one. What was Sasuke doing? Even through the pain and confusion his addled brain could still tell that Sasuke wasn't killing him.
"Guess what sensei?" Sasuke breathed into his ear, his voice bordering on that insanity he had cloaked his mind in.
"I made you immortal, just like me."
Immortal? No that was impossible. Even Orochimaru hadn't been able to achieve it. What was the Uchiha playing at?
"Unlike Orochimaru's immortality we won't have to find a new vessel every few years or so." Sasuke said gleefully that insanity finally poking through.
"Why?" Kakashi managed to croak out.
"Why? No thank you for this gift, Sasuke, I am most unworthy Sasuke." The boy pouted childishly. He wasn't really a boy. He was in his early twenties but all Kakashi saw when he looked at him was the lost little Uchiha, lonely and angry at the world.
"Why?" Sasuke repeated, "So that you can watch me destroy the Shinobi. Watch me hunt them all down one by one and kill them knowing that there's nothing you can do to stop it. You're not getting off that easy, Kakashi-sensei."
Kakashi's mind was a buzz of numbness. Sasuke's explanation had come from very far away. He was sure that if he ever actually registered the meaning of those words then he would only end up hating the demon that much more, and his heart would have one more aching hole ripped into it.
Sasuke was leaving, having done what he had set out to do. Naruto was dead and Kakashi well that Shinobi was the one who would suffer the most out of all of them. He was the one that would be punished the most. He would see it personally and he had an eternity to do it in.
"It looks like some sort of seal. I can't make out what it's purpose is, it's too complex." The voice was floating, growing louder and softer as well as getting closer and further away.
His head was pounding something fierce, but he knew better than to alert those around him that he was awake. He wasn't lucid enough to know where he was and he also knew that the most information could be gathered when people didn't know you were listening.
"I want to know why there isn't a scratch on him. He was found in a field surrounded by dead Shinobi. He can't have just stood on the side and watched."
"Who cares. He's one of the best Shinobi we have and we can't afford to lose him."
"He's one of the only Shinobi we have."
"Quiet you lot. You're making it harder for Sakura." That was all the confirmation Kakashi needed to open his eyes.
About four genin were crowded around him, all trying to get a good look at something, but upon noticing that he was awake they scattered, dashing out of the room like he was possessed by something.
Kakashi tried to sit up but a hand clamped down on his shoulder and pushed him back down again. He looked to his left and saw Shikamaru shaking his head at him and pointing to his right. Neji was sitting cross legged, his face set with an expression of deep concentration, eyes in the state of the Byakugan.
He let out a breath and shook his head, closing his eyes. "I cannot make it out. It's far too complex, even for me."
Kakashi looked down at his abdomen where the hole from the Chidori had been. It was no longer there, not even a scar. He placed a hand where it should have been, causing the muscles there to twitch and quiver as a throb of pain made itself known. His hand moved up higher, almost hesitantly and touched the angry red and black marks where Sasuke had poured his chakra into Kakashi . . . made him immortal. The seal was circular, like most but only at first glance. The more he looked the more complicated the design became and more his headache grew.
Knowing that it would only cause more pain, Kakashi lifted the headband someone had been thoughtful enough to place over his now healed Sharingan. Pain immediately exploded in his mind and he quickly covered it again. Later then. It would have to wait for later.
"What happened?" Shikamaru wasn't one for beating around the bush these days. Kakashi glanced at him and sighed.
"It was a slaughter. We were unprepared and wide open. In his first attack, every Shinobi apart from Naruto and myself were killed. I told Naruto that we had to work together if we had any hope at all but Naruto lost it. He went after Uchiha, alone, ordering me to stay out of it. Uchiha sent a double attack straight at Naruto, but they weren't meant for him. Knowing exactly how Naruto would dodge he sent the attacks so that they hit me instead. His aim was to take out my Sharingan and he succeeded. Blinded and off balance I could only guess as to what was happening to Naruto. I couldn't see the fight and I wasn't able to adjust to the loss of the Sharingan quick enough to help him. Uchiha defeated Naruto and came after me. He used Chidori, knowing that I couldn't even see the attack coming." Kakashi paused for breath and Neji interrupted before he could begin again.
"Your Sharingan is fine and there isn't a scratch on you apart from the seal. What are you playing at Kakashi?" He winced, remembering the exact words he had silently asked Sasuke when he was healing him.
"Uchiha forced a forbidden food pill down my throat before I could irritate him by dying. The food pill was so that he could heal the wounds he had inflicted. Then the seal, he says it's supposed to make me immortal." Kakashi finished with a slightly annoyed tone and slightly mocking. He wasn't in the mood to be ordered around by Shinobi half his age and with half his experience, if not less.
"Immortal? Why would he do that?" Shikamaru asked in confusion.
"So that I can watch as he destroys the Shinobi world, knowing that there's nothing I can do to stop him." Kakashi replied very quietly.
"When had Sasuke even been so direct about his reasons for doing anything?"
Kakashi looked passed the two Shinobi in front of him and to Sakura. Her voice had been bland, tired. He jumped from the bed before Shikamaru could stop him again and landed lightly next to the pink haired medical-nin. For a moment dizziness washed over him and he swayed but he forced himself to stay standing so that he could see and talk his former pupil.
Her eyes were closed and her face passive. He looked down and saw that her hands, glowing green, were placed on Naruto's chest. Naruto wasn't moving, there was nothing to indicate that he was even alive.
"Is he – " But Kakashi couldn't finish. Was Naruto dead? He sure looked it.
"Yes, he is. All I'm doing now is preserving the fox."
Why? Letting the nine-tails out might not have been such a bad idea. It would give Sasuke something to do at least, other than kill Shinobi that was.
. . . . but if they could seal the fox within someone else then they would have hope. Hope for someone who would be able to stop Sasuke. He knew why Naruto had been defeated. The little fool had hesitated, for just a second, only a moment, but it had been enough.
The sound of approaching footsteps made Kakashi look to the door. Gaara entered, his gait still that measured calm walk from years before. He glanced at Kakashi, taking note of everything about him before addressing Sakura. "The council is ready and have requested that you bring Naruto."
Gaara moved to the side of Sakura and picked up Naruto's still form. Together, the two walked out the room, Sakura still keeping contact with Naruto.
Shinobi no longer saw each other as ninja from different villages. All those that had managed to survive Sasuke and Madara's initial attack had fled to the Hidden Leaf village. There were Shinobi here from every Hidden village, just like the Shinobi from the battle field.
Kakashi, curious as to what they wanted to do with Naruto now, followed Gaara and Sakura. Neji and Shikamaru followed as well, both still deep in thought about what Kakashi had told them earlier.
The door opened on its own and the two Shinobi in the front continued without pause. They walked at a careful pace, Sakura deep in concentration. From Kakashi's position behind them he could see the scar where Sasuke had thrown the kunai. He had purposefully not hit anything vital, content to let Sakura know just how powerless she was and it ate at her, every day with every dead Shinobi that returned.
"I see that you have awakened Kakashi Hatake. We will expect a report from you shortly."
"I'm afraid I won't be of much use. I didn't see the battle. Naruto died right in front of me, but I didn't see a thing. Uchiha blinded me at the start of the battle." Kakashi replied. Anything to get out of paperwork.
"We will expect a report from you shortly."
Kakashi sighed. It had been worth a shot. Naruto was placed in the middle of the room. Everything was dark in here with barely any light at all. Yet, he could see well enough to see the writing on the floor where they were placing Naruto. He could see several forbidden Jutsu scrolls lined neatly and waiting. These scrolls were from all the villages and not just the Hidden Leaf. Something big was about to happen.
It appeared that even though he had been followed here, he was the only Shinobi out of place. Everyone else seemed to know what they were doing. Kakashi moved silently to the corner of the room, choosing to observe rather that ask to participate. He didn't think he had the chakra anyway. He was still dangerously low and wondered what was taking so long, or had he just not been out as long as he thought he had.
"Let us begin."
Charka flared all around the room as every Shinobi in it gathered their energy. The writing on the floor around Naruto lit up, lighting up the room with its intensity. Sakura was no longer there but was rather observing, same as Kakashi. He looked around and figured that most of the Shinobi that were left had to be in this room, all of them gathering up enormous charka. He didn't even want to know why there were so many Forbidden Justsu scrolls. Even though he knew it would be painful, Kakashi lifted the head band and exposed the Sharingan.
Then the hand signs began, each Shinobi doing their own set of hand signs like each one were playing a part in a whole. The intensity of the hand signs were amazing, each Shinobi needed to concentrate so much harder so that they didn't get it wrong. There was a lot of chakra building up in here and Kakashi couldn't help but feel a little left out. Still he paid attention to the hand signals, recording the jutsu using his Sharingan. This was not something he himself would ever be able to accomplish on his own.
The Chakra pooled in the centre of the room, surrounding Naruto. Kakashi could see the fox's Chakra, pale and almost extinguished within Naruto's own lifeless Chakra pathways, but the fox perked up when he sensed the amount of Chakra building around Naruto. The blue Chakra of the Shinobi seemed to linger, caress Naruto before sinking into his body, filling every pathway like Naruto never could. One body was just not meant to hold this much Chakra.
Still the hand signs continued, never missing a beat. Kakashi knew instinctively that one mistake from any of them and everything was wasted, there would be no second chance. This was it.
Suddenly the Chakra and the hand signs reached a climax, all the Shinobi stopping immediately. In unison they fell forwards, slamming their hands down onto the glowing seals. The reaction was instant, the room light up so bright that not even the Sharingan could see anything.
Slowly, as if it were something think and tangible, the light began to dim. Popping out of existence like little flecks of something that had actually been living. Kakashi lifted a hand and touched one as it floated towards him. It sparked and went out, just like a little speck of lightening. It made him smile.
It couldn't hold his attention forever though and the silence was broken by Gaara's quiet yet gruff question, "Did it work?" Just by the gruffness in his voice Kakashi knew that they had put a lot of Chakra into this. Well it was obvious before but it wasn't really obvious exactly how much Chakra each individual had put into it.
Gaara did have a point, voicing that which no one else seemed to have the strength to. It felt as though the room was holding its breath as they all looked to the centre where Naruto had been. The little specks of energy lingered the most here, but would soon be gone.
Kakashi moved away from his place of observation and went to the centre of the writing. Wiggling around in Naruto's not so bright anymore orange jacket was a little spikey haired baby? Kakashi bent down and picked up the startled little baby, careful to wrap the jacket around him. The baby had the whiskers of the nine-tails, same as Naruto had but his spikey hair, much like Naruto's was black, flecked with blonde, more like highlights. His eyes were wide, black orbs with blue streaking through it.
Just what had the Shinobi done? For all intents and purposes the child looked like Naruto but with a few colour differences. "What is it?" Kakashi eventually asked looking up at the waiting Shinobi around him. His careless addressing of the child made them all deflate somewhat, since they misinterpreted his meaning.
"It looks like Naruto, but it doesn't." Kakashi continued more to himself and looking back at the child who was calming down. On its belly was the Fourth Hokage's seal and inside the child was the Chakra of the nine tails. His observation was met with relief as the Shinobi realised that Kakashi really didn't know anything about children younger than a genin. Sakura gave a tight smile and walked over to Kakashi to peek over his shoulder.
"I think it's safe to say that it worked." She breathed, sounding fearful that she might dare to hope.
"What exactly did you do?" Kakashi asked looking at Sakura.
"Well we need Naruto if we have any chance of beating Sasuke but we did not know what Jutsu Orochimaru and Kabuto used to bring the Shinobi back to life. So we had to find the scrolls of creation that the Sage of Six Paths used to make the tailed beasts. When we were looking at them, we realised that they could be adjusted to better suit our purpose so we did. The only drawback is it gives you the life you created but as a baby. Turns out, even the tailed demons started out as babies." Sakura explained trying to take the child from Kakashi but he felt the urge to protect this baby. He knew that this child would not have a happy life, if one at all. He had a bad feeling about this. The desperation of the Shinobi world was just far too great.
"So you brought Naruto back to life?" Kakashi questioned so that he could understand this all fully, "But then why is he different?"
"We used the residual Chakra of Sasuke's and infused it with Naruto's own. Technically it's Sasuke and Naruto together. We're not sure if this will mean that he will have the Sharingan but it would help if he did." Sakura explained giving up on hinting that she wanted to take the child. Kakashi just pretended that he didn't notice the hint.
Wind affiliation and fire affiliation. Were they mad? Sharingan or not, that was an explosive combination, literally. The child would be working against his own Chakra all his life, wasn't being Naruto enough?
Sakura glanced at the child, doing a quick examination. She then turned to the other Shinobi, "The Jutsu was a success. He's a normal healthy baby, as far as I can tell."
"Alright then. Everyone get some rest. Well execute phase two tomorrow." The tired Shinobi dragged themselves to their feet, moving to the door. Not one of them looked at the child and this only strengthened Kakashi's suspicions.
"Sakura, what is phase two?" Kakashi had to ask so that Sakura could dispel his suspicions. For once he didn't want what he was thinking to be right.
"We need a warrior now, Kakashi-sensei, not a helpless child." The finality in Sakura's voice and the realisation that all the while she had been staring at the child mechanically, coldly told Kakashi that he was right.
He was alone in the room now, with the child who was sleeping. Not one of them had told him what to do with the miniature Naruto that wasn't. He had no idea. He'd never been around babies. Even Sakura and seemed relieved to let him keep the child.
It didn't take a genius to figure out why they were all so cold towards the child they had expended so much energy to create, so distant. Kakashi shifted his hold and covered his Sharingan once more. None of them wanted to get attached to the child. None of them wanted to develop any sympathy towards him. . . . .because in the end, he had been created to be the sacrifice that would save them from Sasuke, or so they hoped.
But as peaceful as that sounded, Kakashi could not accept it. It was not the way of the Leaf Village to sacrifice children like that. It was not in the Will of Fire to create a Shinobi for the soul purpose of sacrificing him, even if it were to kill someone like Sasuke.
But then again, who was Kakashi to take away their last hope. He looked down at the child, wondering what the heck he was supposed to do now.