Chapter 22: Scry vs. Scry
A/N: The diagram Higurashi gives to Sasuke can be found here (after removing spaces) (http) albums / t17 / rikkuswirls / taba / ?t=1376846870 . It's also located in my profile.
There was only so much time a person could spend reeling from shock. As Sasuke mentally catalogued through everything that had happened to him since being thrust into this universe, he came to the conclusion that he had reached The Limit. Yes: he had officially lost the ability to be surprised. What's that? Orochimaru's secretly an Uchiha who hadn't inherited the famed Sharingan and was thrown out of the clan as an infant? Sasuke would buy it. An older, warped version of his childhood friend had materialized out of thin air and zapped him into an alternate dimension? No big deal. It happens.
"Are you even listening to me?"
"What?" Sasuke blurted out.
"I said," Higurashi cleared his throat, "Is there any place you've always wanted to visit?"
Sasuke stared at him for a good ten seconds before he turned away and began surveying the area. Nothing had changed, except... "The barrier..." Sasuke murmured to himself. "It's gone."
Relief flooded his system, and the tension that left his body was quickly replaced with exhaustion. He could get out. Not that it mattered anymore. Shit, would he be blamed for the barrier being taken down? Did the Hokage even know about... Higurashi?
For the moment, it didn't matter. "We need to get him to the hospital," Sasuke said, inclining his head towards Naruto. He was probably in a lot of pain...
Sasuke took a step back towards his friend's body, but Higurashi quickly intercepted him. "Not so fast, Sasuke. I told you not to worry about him. He'll be okay."
"Don't you mean you'll be okay?"
"Sure," Higurashi shrugged. He placed his hands together and began making several signs.
"What are you doing?" Sasuke said, narrowing his eyes suspiciously.
"You like Suna, right?"
"What? No, I—"
"Ame?" Higurashi suggested. "Ame's nice and rainy. They're a bit of a mess politically, but—"
"I don't understand—"
"How about Yugakure? It's basically tourist central this time of year. Place's great, and..."
"I'm not going anywhere with you," Sasuke interrupted. "You're crazy."
"Aww, come on, Sasuke. Don't be like that. We'll come back eventually, but first, we're gonna pull a disappearing act," When Sasuke just stared at him dumbly, he continued, "The Hokage's gonna freak out! It'll be hilarious!"
"What? No, no it won't. It—"
"What do you suppose he'll think when he sees me lying on the floor with a cursed seal, after summoning Gamabunta, with the barrier broken and both you and Orochimaru missing?"
"What do I think?" Sasuke said incredulously, "I think they're going to call me a missing-nin and then everyone's going to try to murder me, that's what!"
"Can you picture the look on The Third's face?" Higurashi laughed, "And Itachi's gonna flip his shit. It'll be great!"
"You really have gone insane..."
"Hey, relax, Sasuke. Like they could do anything to us. It'll just give them a little scare, that's all. Come on, it'll be fun."
Sasuke opened his mouth to reply, but his words were abruptly cut off as his world tilted for a second time that night. One second, it was dark, and in the next, Sasuke found himself standing in a narrow alleyway between several nondescript buildings. In front of him stood Higurashi, and Sasuke could see the sun peeking out behind the top of a roof from over Higurashi's shoulder.
"Where did you take us..?" Sasuke asked.
"I dunno, I wasn't paying attention. Some kind of village, maybe?" Higurashi shrugged, glancing around with mild interest. "This place looks neat. Let's get ramen."
Sasuke blinked. He wasn't... paying... attention? He was joking, right? Giving Higurashi a penetrating look, Sasuke felt his throat go dry. Higurashi probably was one-hundred percent serious. This was Naruto, after all...
"Hello? Did you hear me? I said I'm hungry. Do you want anything?"
Sasuke looked up at him. "I think I'm going to be sick."
"Cool, cool. We'll pick you up something bland, then."
"No, no food, damn it! Who the hell..." Sasuke stopped and took a deep breath. "I just... I don't understand. Where are we? Where are you from? Why did you bring me here?" Sasuke asked. "Are you... are you from the future of this timeline?"
"Well, no, not exactly," Higurashi said, absent-mindedly scratching his head. "More like an identical parallel universe of this timeline. Probably."
"Probably? What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"Hey, I didn't invent time travel—well, okay, I did invent the jutsu, but that doesn't mean I know how it works."
"How can you even—of course you know how it works!"
When Higurashi only smiled sheepishly at him in response, Sasuke nearly bit the inside of his cheek in frustration. So Higurashi had physically traveled to this world too, and had been there the entire time, to boot. All this time, Sasuke had assumed that he himself had been responsible for every change that had occurred in the timeline, but apparently, that wasn't the case. Now that he thought about it, certain events were beginning to make a little more sense. At the time, he hadn't been able to figure out how he would have been responsible for what happened in Wave or how the Sand Invasion had been thwarted, but now...
"So wait.. you told the Third about Orochimaru's plans? What else did you tell him?"
"Eh? Oh, well, I told him that I was Godaime in the future, that I found a way to inherit almost every bloodline in existence, that I was the Sage of Six Paths and the ten-tails jinchuriki, and that I was immortal and spent all of my waking moments sifting through the fabric of space-time." After a moment, Higurashi added, "Now that I think about it, what if the Third only appointed me as his successor because of what I told him? Ha!"
Sasuke stared at him. There were simply no words.
"Wanna know what happens to you?"
"After realizing the folly of your ways, you retreat to a quiet, isolated temple in the mountains and spend years meditating and repenting for your sins. Then you become a celibate monk and open an orphanage for abused and abandoned children, dedicating your life to-"
"I said no, you idiot!" Sasuke seethed. "And was that really the best you could come up with?"
"Hey, it's all completely true! Probably. In some universe... somewhere," Higurashi said. "And I really was Hokage for a while, but it's not as fun as you'd think. Apparently, other countries don't like it when you assist foreign resistance groups and help install a missing-nin as Kage of another Hidden Village. Who would have thought?"
"Bah, don't worry," Higurashi continued dismissively. "I retired. The Council kept bitching about 'strained foreign relations' and how it's 'inappropriate to select Kage candidates on the basis of who has the biggest sword—'"
"Please stop talking," Sasuke cut him off, "and take me back right now."
"Nah, not yet." When Higurashi saw Sasuke's quickly darkening expression, he continued, "What, you don't like it here? Well, tough. You didn't tell me where you wanted to go when I asked, so you lost your chance to complain."
"Where do I want to go?" Sasuke repeated back, glaring wildly at him, "I want to go home!"
"Yes! Home! Back to my own damn time!"
Higurashi tilted his head as he contemplated Sasuke's request. "Well, I guess I could switch your souls back, if that's what you want. I mean, you're probably still alive..."
"Ye-wait, what?" Sasuke stopped. "What do you mean I'm probably still alive?"
"Oh, well, I haven't been back to check, so who knows. I mean, I did send your twelve-year-old self there, after all..."
"You.. you did what?!" Sasuke's face went white. "Oh, God..."
"Yeah, it's pretty great, isn't it?"
Sasuke looked up at Higurashi—at Naruto—with wide, disbelieving eyes. The man seemed completely relaxed and not a damned bit repentant. "What is wrong with you?! Great? How is that GREAT?! I could be dead! You could be dead! Madara could have—"
"Geez, just calm down already. It's only one world, and you're here after all, so no harm done!"
"No harm..? Are you fucking kidding me? I can't even... why? What in the world was the point of doing that?"
"Why?" Higurashi shook his head. "Why not? Man, you should have been there! Sasuke-chan's reaction was priceless! Too bad I didn't have time to stick around for the aftermath."
"You're.. you're crazy," Sasuke declared. "Completely out of your mind."
"Oh, lighten up, Sasuke. You have to admit, it was pretty awesome. There's no way you're going to be able to top that prank. Now, for the last time... I'm hungry. The shop's right over here, so hurry up."
With that, Sasuke stood there and watched as Higurashi turned and walked out of the alleyway. As much as he would have liked to stand there and impersonate a statue as he pretended this was all some kind of horrible nightmare, Sasuke really didn't want to wind up getting lost. For all he knew, Higurashi had transported them to the other side of the world. Or to hell. Or worse, to some kind of Ramen Land.
As they walked through the town, Sasuke was slightly relieved to note that the architecture wasn't very different from Konoha's. He didn't recognize the location, but then again, he hadn't expected to. And when Higurashi led them straight to a nice-looking ramen stand, Sasuke realized that A.) They were at least on the same continent and that B.) Higurashi was a goddamn liar. He obviously knew exactly where they were.
Sasuke followed quietly as Higurashi went through the line, ordered something to go and finally led him to a park before taking a seat at a picnic table. He waited until Higurashi was halfway through the bowl before breaking the silence. "You're lying."
Higurashi blinked at him. "Eh?"
"I said you're lying."
"Possibly!" Higurashi said, slurping down another mouthful of noodles. "I've said a lot of things. You're gonna have to be a little more specific."
"You can't be Naruto. It doesn't make any sense."
"Sure it does!"
"No, it doesn't," Sasuke stubbornly bit out. "Time travel is impossible. And if it makes sense, then explain it."
"Aha! I knew you were going to ask eventually," Higurashi said, dropping his chopsticks and reaching into his robe. After searching through his pockets, he pulled out a crumpled ball of paper and handed it to Sasuke from across the table.
Suspicious but somewhat interested, Sasuke hesitantly straightened out the sheet. It looked like a crude diagram depicting a theory of 'time travel.' "Why does this say 'Evil Sasuke'?" Sasuke said, frowning as he examined the diagram. "I'm not evil."
"Pretty sure you were."
"If I'm evil, I don't think they even have a word for you."
"Okay, okay, fine. We're not evil," Higurashi relented. "We're tragically misunderstood. Better?"
"Glad we agree! Anyway..." Higurashi began."Let's call me Naruto Y. In my timeline, a Naruto Z from a universe identical to mine traveled to my world as an adult and sent you, Sasuke—we'll call you Sasuke B—back in time, to my world, which changed the course of history. When I grew up and developed the jutsu—because it was an identical world—I traveled to another identical world, and met a young Naruto X, and sent a Sasuke C back in time to his world. And the cycle repeats itself, infinitely, in this set of connected universes. Get it?"
Sasuke stared at the paper with a blank expression. "No."
Higurashi sighed. "Okay, where did I lose you?"
"Right around the 'Naruto Y' part. Which isn't even on this paper, by the way."
"Oh, oops," Higurashi said. "Um... Okay, let's say that for every single 'world' that exists, there are an infinite amount of parallel universes that are identical to it. Now let's call the set of identical timelines that you came from 'Universe A' and the set of universes I came from 'Universe B.' Now, let's call the timeline we're in right now B3, the timeline you originally came from A2, and the timeline I came from B2..."
"So, Sasuke from Universe A2—that's you!—is sent through time to Universe B3 by me, the Naruto from universe B2. Before that, the Sasuke from Universe A1 had been sent to Universe B2 by the Naruto from Universe B1—"
"Oh God, please just stop. I don't even care anymore. This is insane."
"Wait, wait, let me try one more time! I can make it simpler! Er, probably..." Higurashi took a deep breath and stood up from the bench as he looked around the area. His eyes lit up after spotting a handful of rocks, and after retrieving them, he dropped them on the table and divided them into two piles. "Alright! So, let's imagine that each of these rocks is a separate parallel universe. Uh, just pretend that there's an infinite amount of rocks in each pile, okay? Anyway—" He gestured towards the first pile of rocks—"this pile is your set of infinite universes, y'know, where you ran off with Orochimaru and killed Itachi and turned into a total asshat—"
"And this other pile," Higurashi continued, ignoring him, "is my set of alternate universes, where I get the curse mark and end up as the super badass time-traveling retired Godaime and have a harem full of countless beautiful wives."
"Wait, what?" Sasuke glared. "That's complete bullshit."
"Oh, whatever. It could happen."
"No, it really couldn't."
"You think?" Higurashi frowned. "Well, I hope Hiruzen believed me at least. Otherwise he might start questioning the validity of my time-traveling-induced future knowledge."
"I hope you didn't actually tell him that. He's not an idiot," Sasuke said. "Unlike you."
"Back on topic!" Higurashi smiled momentarily, his frown returning after a few seconds. "Wait, where were we?"
"I have no idea."
"Well, I give up," Higurashi declared. "Good luck figuring it out on your own. Looks like you're gonna need it."
Rolling his eyes, Sasuke looked back at the diagram. It's not that it was complicated, it just... didn't quite make sense. "If you're telling the truth..." Sasuke said slowly, "Where did the very first version of you come from? It's just.. not possible."
"Where did the first Universe B come from? Look," Sasuke poked the paper with one finger, "If Higurashi was created because of 'Sasuke's—" He cringed, irritated at the thought of having to talk about himself in third-person. Or did it not count in this case..? "—influence, the very first Sasuke would never have been able to switch dimensions, because there wouldn't be a Higurashi to have sent him there."
Higurashi smiled. "Have you ever heard of something called a temporal causality loop?"
"What..?" Sasuke glared. "And that's another thing! The Naruto I know wouldn't even know what the words 'temporal' and 'causality' were, much less how to use them in a sentence—"
"It describes a theoretical series of cause and effect events that loop circularly. 'A' causes 'B', 'B' causes 'C', and 'C' causes 'A.' See those arrows at the bottom of the diagram that point to nothing? Well, they don't actually lead to nothing. It's a loop, dummy!" Higurashi said. "Sasuke travels back in time, which alters the course of history and causes Naruto to change, which causes Naruto to develop dimension-traveling jutsu, which causes Naruto to send Sasuke back in time."
"That just raises even more questions!" Sasuke crumpled the paper in frustration. "Something has to have come first."
"Oh?" Higurashi raised both eyebrows. "And where did the very first timeline come from? What came first, the chicken or the egg? Who created the world? What's the meaning of life, the universe, and everything?"
Sasuke's eye twitched. "Okay, fine. I get it. There's no answer."
"What's black, white, and red all over?"
"Why did the chicken cross the-"
"I said shut up already! God!"
Sasuke kept glaring as Higurashi chuckled to himself and resumed finishing his meal. As he ate, Sasuke was yet again struck by the utter weirdness of seeing an adult Naruto. Except this wasn't at all what Sasuke had pictured. Not that Sasuke had ever pictured Naruto as an adult before, but... So what, did this time travel explanation mean that Higurashi was a direct product of his influence on Naruto after traveling to the past? Because if so... who was really responsible for everything that had happened? Higurashi... or himself?
Sasuke's eyes locked onto the curse seal on Higurashi's neck once more, and he wondered if that was the missing link. After all, Sasuke wasn't that much of a bad influence, right? And maybe the curse seal had something to do with Naruto discovering space-time jutsu.
"I know what you're thinking, and the answer is no," Higurashi said. "Oh, don't look at me like that, Sasuke. You've been staring at my neck for like five minutes now. It's creeping me out."
Sasuke quickly looked down and resumed glaring at Higurashi's ramen bowl instead.
"I never figured out how to do anything with this dumb thing," Higurashi continued. "It's probably because of the ninetails chakra. It's basically just a tattoo at this point. I like to tell people I was drunk when I got it."
Sasuke frowned slightly and looked back up at the curse seal. That was plausible, but how was he supposed to know if Higurashi was telling the truth? At this point, his track record wasn't looking too good.
"How old are you now?" Sasuke asked.
"Two hundred and twelve."
Not good at all. "That is not funny."
"If you thought it was, I wouldn't be nearly as amused."
"Let me get this straight," Sasuke said. "You—you, of all people!—managed to develop a jutsu that lets you travel through dimensions. You literally have the ability to alter time and space and transport anyone you want into another world, and instead of doing something useful with it, you spend your all time being a complete fucking asshole and thinking up the most catastrophic pranks you can to mess with people."
"Hey, that's not true. I don't spend all my time coming up with pranks," Higurashi said. "I also write erotic novels."
Remembering Jiraiya and the incident at the Hot Springs, Sasuke glared. "Write or steal?"
"This... I can't..." Sasuke trailed off helplessly, at a loss for words yet again.
This was just great. He was stuck with a ridiculously overpowered Kage-level, dimension-hopping Naruto whose moral compass probably pointed towards the nearest ramen stand as opposed to anything resembling the words 'right' and 'wrong.' Going back to his old universe was probably out of the question, too. Thinking back, Sasuke was having a hard time remembering what he was like at twelve. What would he have even done if he had been thrust into the future? His thoughts would probably have been something along the lines of: "Itachi's dead? And I killed him? Wow, I'm awesome! Wait, where am I? Why can't I see?"
Assuming he was smart enough not to actually say anything to Madara or Kabuto and competent enough to get away, twelve-year-old Sasuke would probably try wandering back to Konoha. He'd have no idea how to even use his EMS and would most likely get completely annihilated by the first ANBU he ran into.
So long, old timeline. That was officially a lost cause. And this timeline? With Higurashi basically kidnapping him and Danzo wanting him dead?
He was so screwed.
"I don't want to live in this world anymore," Sasuke stated after a moment. "I think I'm going to kill myself."
A/N: Hopefully that clears… some things. But not everything. Yet. If you have questions… well… if I can answer them, I will! Also, not sure if you can get ramen to go, but since you can get soup to go, I went with it. Plus, I'm sure Naruto would find a way.