As Sasuke watched through the crack in the tent as the sky began to lighten, he sighed, laying his head back down on the pillow, struggling to get at least a few minutes of sleep.
Beside him, Hana stirred, sleepily rolling herself onto her stomach, releasing her hold on his and Sakura's shirts only long enough to get comfortable again.
She hadn't let go of either of them since she'd fully regained consciousness.
The moment they'd gotten back to their campsite they knew they had to move, and quickly. There was no telling when more hunter-nin would show up. Hanabi and Karin's abilities were helpful, but they'd only be able to give the team so much notice before they were pursued by more enemies.
They travelled back to Konoha for a little more than three hours—Sasuke carrying Hana and Naruto carrying Sakura—only stopping once they reached a particularly thick and untraveled part of the woods. From there, they set up camp again, only to rest for another few hours. They were to leave after sunrise to head straight back to Konoha, so as Sasuke watched as the light in the tent began to increase little by little, he knew that his chances of now getting any sleep were basically inexistent.
Letting his eyes look back toward Sakura and Hana, he watched them carefully, observing the slow rise and fall of their chests as he tried hard to get rid of his anxiety. He figured he'd feel better—more confident, more prepared to kill Masaru—after reuniting Hana with Sakura. But in reality he only felt his worry increase tenfold.
How could he kill their enemy when he was so determined to keep them safe? And the only way he could be comfortable would be to have them by his side constantly, which was incredibly out of the question. He didn't want to put them in danger, but he knew that without them in his line of sight, he would hardly be able to protect them.
At the sound of footsteps outside of the tent he sat himself up, carefully removing Hana's hold from his shirt. Before he could move even slightly the little girl had shot up, grabbing his arm with a fierce grip.
"Where are you going?" Her eyes were wide with worry; she was hardly awake but even in her sleepy haze she was filled with panic.
"I'm just going outside for a little bit. I won't go far," gently prying her fingers off his wrist, he placed her arm back down at her side and pulled the blanket back over her, "I promise."
He could sense her reluctance, as she laid back down, still staring at him nervously. Sasuke leaned down and planted a kiss to her forehead before crawling out of the tent.
Standing up straight and stretching out his muscles, Sasuke watched as Naruto walked away from the campsite, Sai by his side. Approaching the two, he waited for them to acknowledge him before saying anything.
"What now?" He asked tiredly, as Naruto finally looked over his shoulder.
"We go back home. To Konoha." The young Hokage replied, shooting Sai a quick glance.
His look did not go unnoticed by Sasuke. "That's it?" He raised an eyebrow.
"That's the main thing," Sai said, scratching the back of his head, "but we're still trying to sort out a few specifics."
"Specifics?" Staring at the duo before him, he refused to speak another word until they elaborated.
Naruto sighed, "We can't decide whether we want to split up into groups or not."
"No," Sasuke responded immediately. "We've tried that already. It didn't work."
"We have more people now though," Sai chimed in, "and with the added manpower it could be enough for it to be safe to – "
"If they were able to kill Kakashi, what makes you think greater numbers would really help us that much?" Sasuke asked angrily. He hated bringing up his sensei's death, but he knew that Kakashi was strong; insanely strong. Even if they had been greater in numbers before, he knew it wouldn't have changed a thing. The only difference he could imagine would be more bodies to bring back to the village.
"That's why we haven't decided," Naruto informed him, his words an attempt to calm him, "it's just something that we've been considering."
"Well, stop considering that." He snapped, not even willing to give the plan a second thought. "We need to stick together."
"If we do that there's a chance that we could be spotted easier. That's the reason we're on the fence with this, Sasuke," Sai said, rubbing his temples. They were all exhausted, Sasuke knew that, but when they were finally so close to getting Sakura and Hana back in the village safe, he wasn't willing to take any chances.
"Just," shaking his head tiredly, "do whatever. I don't care." Turning around and walking away Sasuke tried hard to center his thoughts. He needed to calm himself down before he started the day.
Hardly a minute after he stormed away, Naruto was there by his side.
"We're leaving in ten minutes," he informed Sasuke, falling in step beside him, "do you want to wake them up, or do you want me to?"
Sasuke then let his feet come to a halt. Sighing, he rubbed the back of his neck tiredly, looking up toward Naruto and shaking his head. "I'll do it." As he turned back toward their campsite they began walking again.
"I agree with you," Naruto said, just before they reached everyone else, "just so you know. I think you're right. We need to stick together. We don't need any more unnecessary losses."
Sasuke nodded as they walked, hands in his pockets and head staring at his feet as he stepped through the dead leaves. "Thanks."
"And one more thing, before we head out." Placing a hand on his shoulder, Naruto stopped Sasuke in his tracks, causing his old friend to look up at him and direct his attention toward his words. "I'm not going to let Masaru touch either of them. I'm going to do everything in my power to protect them."
With his vow, suddenly Kakashi's final words to him began playing through his head.
"I promise that I'll protect them with my life."
"Naruto," placing his hand on top of Naruto's, he let his eyes sink back down to focus on the ground beneath their feet, "please don't make any promises like that."
The Hokage frowned, "Why shouldn't I? It's the truth."
"I just," he bit his cheek, "I don't want anyone else dying. Least of all you."
Naruto let out a quick laugh, clapping Sasuke on the back, "Nice to hear that from you, Sasuke. But don't worry about me. I'm a pretty hard guy to get rid of, I don't think this guy is going to be able to do much to change that."
Sasuke allowed himself to smirk slightly at his friend's self-deprecating humor. But deep down his fear was still rooted firmly in his heart. Stubbornness would mean little to nothing once they were on the battlefield, fighting against Masaru.
Minutes later, Sasuke was back at the campsite, a sleepy Hana in his arms and an exhausted Sakura by his side.
As everyone prepared for departing, Naruto went over the plan while everyone moved around the campsite.
They'd head straight for Konoha. No breaks. No stopping. They'd travel altogether, not stopping until nightfall. Although they weren't safe travelling during the day, they were much safer during the day then they were at night.
So the quicker they got out of the forest and into the village, the better.
It was a beautiful day, Sasuke realized as they ran. The air lacked any humidity, the heat wasn't too intense, and the slight breeze that blew through the forest was ideally refreshing. Clinging to the tiny bit of optimism that he still held, Sasuke tried hard to think that maybe the pleasant weather was a sign of a good day. It was unlikely, but he had to hope.
Really, what else could he do?
The deeper into the forest they ran, the faster they pushed their legs. With their speed steadily increasing and their energy steadily decreasing, after a few hours Naruto made the executive decision to stop for a break.
"We need to make sure we aren't exhausting ourselves," he'd said in defense of his decision after they'd gathered round a small body of water. "If we're too tired and someone comes to attack, we'll all be useless."
Soon after stopping their run, everyone scattered a bit in order to recharge. Naruto sat down on a large rock, readjusting his shoes and double-checking his supply of kunai. Sai remained by his side, leaning against the rock with his arms crossed over his chest and his eyes studying the area around them.
Sakura had taken a seat by the edge of the river with Hana in her lap, Ino and Karin sat by her sides, leaning forward to place their feet into the water. Suigetsu had quickly disappeared inside of the pond, only reappearing every minute or so to squirt more water at Karin when she wasn't looking.
On the other side of the pond stood Kiba, leaning against Akamaru for support with his back to the forest. He watched with bored eyes as Hanabi leaned forward toward the water to splash it on her face.
As he stood, staring at everyone in front of him, Sasuke felt oddly reassured with the presence of so many strong ninja with their main objective to get Sakura and Hana back in the village safely.
Well, almost all of them.
"So you're the kid everyone's been freaking out about?" Floating on his back with his hands behind his neck, Suigetsu studied Hana with narrowed eyes.
Uneasy about someone who she'd never seen before addressing her, Hana looked up at her mother, as if to see whether this strange man was an ally of theirs or not. Sakura's look at the Kiri-nin was disapproving, but not distrusting.
"I guess so," she mumbled, her small hands gripping Sakura's arms tightly.
"Well, one thing's for sure," he stood up to get a closer look at her, "you're definitely Sasuke's kid. You look just like the asshole."
"Suigetsu," Karin scolded, glaring at her old teammate at his choice of words.
"You were teammates with my dad once." Hana stated out of the blue, looking toward him with a curious expression.
Suigetsu blinked a few times. "Yeah, how'dya know that?"
"I read it in a book," she stated plainly. "You and Karin-san and even Jugo-san."
"Ah, yes," he grinned, leaning back down into the water as he resumed floating around, "the good ol' days! Travelling around with the big weird-o, your asshole dad, and that bitch right there."
"Shut up, Suigetsu!" Karin yelled, leaning forward in an attempt to kick him, but unfortunately for her, he was out of her reach.
"You're not very nice," Hana said, matter-of-factly.
Suigetsu scoffed. "Kid, the world isn't a nice place."
No one could argue with that.
Sensing an overbearing presence from behind him, Sasuke turned to look over his shoulder only to find Jugo standing close by, a concerned look on his face. Turning his eyes back toward the group, Sasuke's curiosity got the better of him. "What's the matter?" He asked quietly.
"We shouldn't stay here for long," he muttered, staring at the birds flying overhead. "The animals are restless."
After months of travelling by the large ninja's side years ago, Sasuke knew better than to question Jugo's odd quirks, no matter how ridiculous his suspicions seemed. If Jugo felt that something was wrong, then he knew that listening to him was the only right thing to do.
Walking towards Naruto and Sai with a brisk pace, Sasuke tightened his hold on his backpack, readjusting the straps so they'd be more secure as they ran. They weren't more than seven of eight hours away from the village, he figured. So next time they stopped could very well be within the gates of Konoha.
He couldn't wait to finally put his two girls out of harm's way.
As he opened his mouth to call out Naruto's name, the sound of Akamaru barking and yelping broke the calm around them.
Head turning to look toward the big noisy dog his heart dropped into his stomach instantaneously.
"My, my," the deep, cold voice spoke, "what a pleasure it is to finally find you all."
Standing behind Kiba, pressing a kunai firmly against his throat stood Masaru, wearing his white clothes and his eerily calm smile.
Everyone was stuck standing still, no one moving even a centimeter in any direction.
"I—I didn't sense him," Karin suddenly blurted out in a panic, "I'm sorry—I didn't—"
"I didn't either," Hanabi admitted, her eyes wide with fear and her voice cracking from where she was crouched down on all fours, only a few meters away from Kiba. Akamaru stood at her side, white hairs on end, growling and whining at the man who held his human captive.
"Get away from here you guys!" Kiba managed to bark at them, wincing as the blade pressed harder against his throat. Sasuke watched as a small trail of blood began to trickle down his neck.
"Ah ah ah!" Masaru clicked his tongue in disapproval, "I wouldn't listen to him if I were you. Now, hand over the girl, or he dies."
"Forget about me," Kiba shouted suddenly, "now get out of here! NOW!"
Sasuke watched as Masaru's smile dropped from his face, a dark look taking over. "Never take advice from a dead man."
It happened too quickly for any of them to act.
In one quick movement, Masaru's hand had glided across Kiba's neck, opening it cleanly with the kunai, slicing easily through the skin and muscle. The amount of blood that spurted out, splattering against the earth beneath them was sickening.
Sasuke knew he was a goner.
And suddenly, the world erupted in panic around him.
Kiba's body crumpled to the ground unceremoniously at the same moment that Akamaru lunged for Masaru.
In a flash Masaru had disappeared and reappeared only a few meters to the side of where he'd just stood. The moment Akamaru landed, the dog looked around desperately searching for the man. But before the canine could spot him, Masaru had already shot a few kunai at the dog, one lodging itself in his front paw, effectively piercing it and sinking the tip of the blade into the ground, pinning the dog where he stood.
Hanabi was on him in a flash, fists blazing and expression deadly as she threw her arms forward, desperate to land a hit. But Masaru just kept flashing around her, there one moment and then a couple meters away in the next. Just as he flashed behind her, kunai ready to strike, he paused his assault and instead jumped straight up into the trees, just barely dodging being maimed by one of Sai's ink tigers.
"Hanabi," Naruto yelled, appearing beside her in a bright yellow flash, "are you alright?!"
"Not for long," Masaru replied for her, flashing behind them both.
Just as he went to attack, Naruto grabbed Hanabi roughly, throwing her back towards the pond and out of harm's way. Sasuke didn't see it, but he could hear the sound of Hanabi's body hitting the ground roughly.
Producing a dozen golden shadow clones in a blink of an eye, Naruto had him surrounded for a few long seconds, fists flying and rasengan charging. But before he could land any attacks on the white-clad man, he'd disappeared up into the trees again before flashing back down to the ground, several meters away from Naruto.
As Naruto continued to engage him in contact, Sasuke's eyes—eternal mangekyou sharingan activated—flashed across the pond only to find Sakura and Hana nowhere to be found. He was running toward Ino and Karin before he could think of anything else.
"Where are they?" He breathed out desperately.
Without speaking Ino gave him a wide-eyed look and placed a hand on his shoulder.
They're not here. Her voice suddenly appeared within his head. They started running South, closer toward the village. We need to keep him here. Looking out into the forest Sasuke was suddenly at war with himself. He needed to kill Masaru but he also wanted, more than anything, to remain at Sakura and Hana's side to protect them. No. It's okay, her voice intruded once more, just worry about Masaru. Stay here.
The sound of water roaring to life is what brought Sasuke out of his thoughts and back to the real world around him.
Directly ahead of them was a huge wall of water, at least thirty meters tall and ten across. In the center of the wall, sword at the ready and excited smirk on his face, was Suigetsu, fangs bared.
"Didn't want to fight this shit but I guess I got no choice now!" He called down toward Sasuke. As a series of shuriken was fired from the other side, the wall of water stopped the weapons easily. Suigetsu laughed as he fired the weapons back. "You've gotta do better than that old man," he called, "blades don't do shit on me."
Eyes focused up on the huge wall ahead of him, in a split-second his eyes found something, standing up at the top of the wall. Yet before he could relay any information Masaru was in front of him, kunai in each hand and a chilling grin spread across his face.
Hands shooting out to his sides as quickly as he could, Sasuke grabbed both Ino and Karin by the arms and jumped backward, yanking them out of the way just as Masaru sliced through the air in front of them.
"I don't want to kill you, Sasuke." Masaru stated, readjusting his grip on his weapons. "It's just the fact that you all keep getting in my way from getting what I want."
"You can't have Hana," he growled, angrily. "How many times do I have to say that!"
Masaru laughed, the sound chilling. "Now Sasuke, you should know better than to make promises you can't keep."
Sasuke's eyes flashed to his feet as he noted the ink snakes clinging tightly to his feet, making their way up his legs. He grinned wickedly when he realized that Sai had finally caught him. Yet before Sasuke could take advantage of the situation and sink his kunai into his skull, Naruto was there in a flash, standing in front of Masaru and holding him tightly by the neck.
"You're finished," the blonde said, his voice deadly.
"I'm afraid not, dear Hokage," he grinned in reply. Just as quickly as he'd been captured, he was gone.
He reappeared behind Karin first, lodging a kunai in her back, reappearing in front of her, and throwing her by the neck toward the wall of water. Next, he flashed in front of Ino, binding her wrists quickly with thin wire—the material easily slicing into her pale skin—and kicking the side of her head, sending her tumbling into a tree.
"Two medics down," he declared with a laugh, flashing back up into the trees. "One to go," Sasuke watched as his eyes fluttered around the area and then took note as his brow furrowed with confusion when he realized Sakura's absence. "I see…" he spoke, a pensive look on his face as his eyes trailed off into the forest.
Blood beginning to boil, Sasuke jumped up toward him, teeth bared and ready to sink his weapons into the man's heart. "You won't touch her!"
Before Sasuke could reach him, he was surprised when he saw Jugo flying toward Masaru, riding on the back of an ink clone. Within seconds Jugo had jumped from the bird and—fists together—smashed Masaru directly on the head, sending him careening down to the ground where he hit the forest floor, hard.
Still flying forward, Sasuke braced himself against the tree and turned toward the ground to watch from above, absorbing every detail he could.
The moment Masaru made impact with the earth, Naruto and Sai closed in on him. Jugo had him pinned roughly to the ground, his faced pressed into the dirt, his white clothes being stained brown and green, with splashes of red here and there. Adrenaline was coursing through Sasuke's veins. This was it; this was the end of the nightmare he'd been living for so many months now.
That's it, Sasuke thought desperately, keep him blind. Don't let him see anything. Don't—Eyes widening, Sasuke finally made a startling discovery, putting the pieces together and solving the puzzle.
Before he could call down to Jugo and demand that he keep Masaru's face pressed into the dirt, Naruto produced several shadow clones to surround the man from all sides.
"This ends here!" Naruto declared angrily, his nine-tails chakra flaring with his fury. "Jugo, lift up his head."
As Jugo grabbed a fistful of the man's hair, he yanked his head upward to expose his neck.
Sasuke's eyes widened. "Wait, don't!"
But before he could reach the ground where Naruto surrounded Masaru, the man had already flashed out of Jugo's grip and was currently flashing around back and forth within the circle of shadow clones that Naruto had created.
"Why isn't he teleporting out?" Sai asked him, jumping backward and away from the action, standing beside Sasuke.
"He can't," Sasuke said, studying their every move as he held his defensive position. "He isn't able to. He—"
Masaru flashed up into the trees again, once more effectively escaping their clutches.
"Well, this has been fun," he spoke, staring down at the ninja beneath his feet. Sasuke watched as blood flowed freely down his face from a wound somewhere on the top of his head. "But I must go." Sending a series of kunai flying toward them—explosive tags flying behind the weapons tied to their ends—he disappeared in the blink of an eye. In the next moment, the ground beneath their feet shook as the explosions erupted all around them.
Susano'o was always something Sasuke liked using only when he had no other option for protection, and he hated being forced to use his back-up plan while fighting on a battlefield, but at the moment it was the only thing keeping him, Sai, Naruto, Jugo, and Shikamaru from being blown to bits.
Allowing his summon to dissipate, the group immediately began to run around desperately through the thick smoke.
"Ino! Karin!" Sai yelled loudly. "Hanabi!"
Eyes zeroing in on the direction the noise came from, Sasuke could hardly make out Karin's silhouette through the smoke as she stumbled toward them, Suigetsu by her side. "Where'd he go?" He asked, supporting Karin's weight on his shoulder, his sword still held firmly in his other hand.
"I don't know," Sasuke growled out of frustration. The smoke was finally beginning to clear and Sasuke could finally see around him. Ino was sprawled out under a tree and was unconscious and bleeding from some facial wounds, but other than that she looked alright to him. Eyes flashing across the pond he felt nausea begin to build up in the pit of his stomach once he caught sight of Hanabi, bleeding and broken, leaning over Kiba's body.
Her hands were lit up with green chakra and she held her palms tightly overtop of Kiba's neck, trying desperately to close the wound that had already spilt so much blood before her.
"Hanabi," Sasuke watched as Naruto ran toward her, crouching by her side and placing a hand on her shoulder, "his jugular was severed, there's nothing we can—"
"No!" She screeched, lighting her hands up green. "I can do it. I've seen medics do it. I—I'm not a real medic, but I can do it!" She rambled loudly, tears building up in her eyes. "I have to do it."
He couldn't watch any more, turning toward the forest he immediately took off without any further warning to his teammates.
More blood on the hands of his comrades, more death on his conscious, more guilt steadily rising within him.
He wasn't a sensory type, not by a long shot, but he could certainly make his way around with only himself and his sharingan. There was no way that Masaru had found them yet; he definitely wasn't a sensor. If he was then he wouldn't have had to hire all these people to hunt Katahana down in the first place. As long as they hid from sight they'd be fine.
"Sasuke!" Suddenly Naruto was by his side, easily keeping pace as he shot his friend a panicked look, "we have to be careful, Masaru—"
"Is going to get to Sakura and Hana first, if we don't hurry up!" He shouted back, finishing the statement for him.
"We need to think of a way to beat him," Jugo chimed in from somewhere not far behind the duo. "If we can't figure out the jutsu he's using, we'll never figure out how to defeat him."
"It's his eyes," Sasuke blurted out suddenly, "or at least one of them."
"What?" Naruto asked confused.
"Didn't you see how he didn't immediately teleport out of the circle you'd made around him with your shadow clones?" He asked, ducking under a couple of branches and flying over the tops of a few of the smaller trees in the area. "And how he didn't teleport when his face was in the ground?"
"No way," Naruto whispered, as if everything were finally coming together in his head as well.
"Even when he tried getting around Suigetsu's wall, I could see him for barely a moment as he flashed to the top of the wall before he could get to the other side."
"Because he couldn't see the other side…"
"Exactly. He can't teleport where he can't see."
"We need to blind him," Jugo nodded, on the same page as the other two. "Then he will die."
The scream cut through the air around them and for a moment that's all they could hear.
"SAKURA!" Sasuke couldn't keep his shout contained as he pushed himself further, turning slightly in order to reach her as fast as possible.
"NO! STOP IT! LEAVE HER ALONE!"
"MOMMY! MOMMY HELP ME!"
"HANA! HANA FIGHT! YOU HAVE TO FIGHT!"
"How are we supposed to stop him?" Naruto asked in a panic, eyes wide as he heard the two scream toward one another, clearly in horrific distress. "How are we supposed to keep him from seeing?!"
"We box him in."
Naruto nodded and, forming a hand sign, brought forth hundreds of shadow clones. "Got it." Dispersing them suddenly throughout the forest, Sasuke could only see flashes of golden yellow flitter all around, trying to form some sort of barricade. But in order to figure out what area they needed to block off, they needed to find Masaru.
It was at that moment, when Sasuke turned his head slightly to the left, when he saw Hana wriggling and writhing around in Masaru's grasp, covered head to toe in blood.
He didn't know whose blood it was and he didn't care to find out. All he knew in that moment was that Masaru was going to die. And soon.
"Are you really that eager to watch your daughter die?" Masaru asked, turning toward Sasuke while keeping Hana between them, as if using her as a human shield.
Without warning, the ground shook beneath their feet, opening up cracks and holes in the ground where trees and rocks disappeared into.
"You will leave her alone," Sakura roared, emerging from the trees to the left of Sasuke and marching, without fear, straight toward him.
Sasuke was at her side in an instant. "Sakura, it's his eyes. We need to destroy—"
"I know," she replied coldly, eyes still focused on Hana. "We know."
Without time to inquire how or when she figured it out, instead he found himself more relieved than curious at the fact that she'd solved the mystery of his power.
"I wouldn't come any closer if I were you," he threatened, wagging a finger toward them, as if scolding a naughty child. The way he spoke to them was maddening.
His warning came a moment too late.
As Sakura took a determined step toward him, her foot caught on a metal wire, setting off a trap that could've in no way been set up so quickly.
Sasuke watched in shock as the wire wrapped itself tightly around her leg and yanked her—pulling her body like a rag doll—across the clearing and against a tree. Upon impact another wire snapped itself around her neck, holding her upright against the thick trunk as it dug into her flesh.
"It's sad, really." Masaru began in a mock-sincere voice, "That I have to kill such a precious little family. If only you'd listened from the start." He shrugged, "I'm sure you would've preferred your daughter to be blind rather than dead, but…" he lifted a kunai to the small girl's face, placing the tip gently at the corner of her eye.
"Stop it!" Sasuke shouted. He was frustrated. No, frustrated couldn't even begin to describe the way he was feeling right now. Furious, livid, enraged; all of these statements barely even scratched the surface. Naruto and his shadow clones be damned, Sasuke was taking this into his own hands.
The grass, the trees, the dirt, the shrubs, and everything around them burned with black, toxic flames. Looking upward, Sasuke felt grim satisfaction when he noted that the flames had spread so far and risen so high he could only see the bright blue sky above him.
Nowhere to see. Nowhere to go.
He couldn't believe that only minutes before, he'd been watching his comrades and his family sitting by a pond on a beautiful day, only hours away from home.
"You're smart," he smiled, "I'll give you that. But that won't exactly help you right now."
Sasuke couldn't tear his eyes away from Hana, who'd gone limp in his grasp. Her eyes were closed, her arms hung downward to the ground, and her head also hung forward. Thankfully he could still see the rise and fall of her chest, meaning that she wasn't dead. As his eyes focused on her breathing, he noticed the uneven, small breaths she was taking.
She was faking unconsciousness. Sasuke could only hope that Masaru wouldn't notice and that Hana knew what she was doing; whatever it was.
When Masaru pulled the kunai back to twirl it around his fingers a couple of times, that's when a sudden realization hit Sasuke.
"Your fingers," he said slowly, "you're missing fingers."
Suddenly his memories sucked him back to several weeks prior. The green masked man had escaped his clutches but only barely. After the explosion it was reported that a few fingers had been found, blown off by the man's close proximity to the explosive tags.
"You, it's always been you," he muttered. Everything was finally falling into place. He understood now.
"Ah yes, I suppose in a way," Masaru mused, still spinning the kunai lazily on his finger. "But he stays in my head where he belongs, most of the time, anyways." He sighed over-dramatically, "Although I do suppose he gets a little too much play time than he should."
"He?" Sasuke yelled in frustration, "I think you mean you. You crazy fuck!"
"He is me. We are me. I am him." He listed off the rhyming phrases tiredly as if reciting them from a children's book. "It doesn't matter how you word it. In fact, nothing really matters for you now, other than the fact that I'm going to kill—"
That's all it took for Hana to see her chance and take it.
The kunai was in her tiny hands and had slashed across his eyes so quickly, even Sasuke had trouble following the movements with his sharingan.
As blood squirted out from the ruptured organs, Masaru grunted in pain, blindly snatching the kunai back out of Hana's hands. He readjusted his hold on the child quickly, holding her by her neck, with her feet hanging off the ground, instead of around the waist.
"If you step any closer, she dies," he spat out bitterly. "I will snap her tiny little neck before you even get a shot in."
"It's over, Masaru," Sasuke called angrily. "You can't teleport, you can't fight. You can't do anything now. Give it up."
Just then, Masaru began to laugh. At first it started off as a small chuckle, but soon enough he was cackling loud for all to hear. "You don't see do you?" He asked, a digusting grin still plastered on his face. "One of them is going to die." He chuckled again. "You can't win here. You'll leave today either dead or without a family. It may be over, but not for me. Not yet.
"If you take a step forward, you'll trigger the bombs and you'll be blown to bits along with your dear lover over there." He nodded his head toward where Sakura was still strapped to the tree by the thin, razor-sharp wires. "If you strike me down with a weapon," he gestured to the hand that held onto Hana, "the girl hits the ground and triggers the explosions, and the little wire I'm holding here will be released, causing the wire to snap back and tighten around the woman, killing her most likely. Worst case? Decapitation.
"And if you don't strike me down, then slowly the life will fade from this young girl's eyes." He tightened his grip on her throat. "A person can only last so long without oxygen." He smiled wickedly. "The only other option you have is to let me take the girl's eyes and leave."
"No," he replied immediately, frustration boiling inside of him, "you're not touching her eyes."
"Sasuke!" Sakura called, her voice strained. "Take him out, get Hana, and run!"
"I'm not leaving you here," he snapped, furious at her for even thinking of that possibility. "You're coming home with me."
"God damnit Sasuke, just listen to me for once!" She cried out, her voice desperate, full of emotion. "I need you to save Hana, please. Please just forget about me and protect her. Protect our daughter."
"No," he replied again, shaking his head, "No. I can do this."
"Sasuke," her cries were full of tears now, "please. I'm begging you."
"Do you trust me?" He asked, eyes focused solely on Masaru ahead of him.
"Sasuke, now isn't the time to—"
"Do you trust me?" He shouted, his voice carrying his anger and frustration with it.
"Yes," she replied quietly, "I trust you."
"Then brace yourself," his eyes sought her out for only a moment, "and please, please don't die."
Making hand signs suddenly he erupted in a burst of electricity. With a chidori charged up in his hand and his body giving off electricity from every angle, he was a walking lightening storm. Shooting his electrified hand toward the ground beneath him, his arms easily pierced into the ground, the impact of the lightening splitting the earth under his blow and causing the forest floor to shift slightly. Just enough to give him somewhere to run that wasn't completely covered in explosive tags.
Running faster than he'd ever run in his life, he was sure he looked like a bright, static-like, blur.
The chidori allowed him to penetrate Masaru's chest almost too easily.
Snatching Hana out of his grip, he yanked his hand back out of his bloody chest. The moment she was no longer in contact with him, he allowed the electricity to completely envelope him, paralyzing him where he stood. It was when he noticed the electricity travelling elsewhere when he panicked.
The wire that Masaru had held in his hand was lit brightly with thousands upon thousands of volts of electricity. Once he realized where the electricity had travelled, he quickly let his jutsu dissipate, his fear setting in.
Jumping up and into the trees, Hana held against him tightly, he ran toward Sakura, only to see her hanging limply in the tree—the wire that had been around her neck had disintegrated, unable to take all of the electricity. Yet he could see the bright red and dark black burn marks the wire had left on her skin.
"Sakura," he called out, landing on the branch directly above where she was trapped. "Sakura, look at me."
Weakly, Sakura lifted her head slightly to look at him with red, bloodshot eyes. Her breathing was labored and he knew that if he didn't get her out of there and back to someone who could heal her, he may truly lose someone precious today.
"Give me your hand," he instructed, holding a hand down toward her, "I'm going to pull you up and out of the wires."
"I can't," she whimpered, lifting her shoulder in an attempt at listening to his simple request. "I can't feel my arms."
He grabbed Hana and looked at her seriously. "Climb onto my back and wrap your arms around my neck," he told her, "no matter what you do, don't let go. Hold on as tightly as you can." The girl nodded rapidly before doing as she was told.
Gripping the branch with one hand he then jumped down slightly, lowering himself until he was face to face with Sakura. "I'm going to get you out of here," he mumbled, leaning forward to wrap an arm around her back and underneath her arms to hoist her upward. "It's going to be okay."
When a sickly-sounding cackling reached his ears, he turned his head, filled once more with panic, only to see Masaru crawling across the ground.
"Now, now Sasuke," he wheezed, spitting up blood by the mouthful as he dragged his body across the forest floor with his arm, "what have I told you about making promises you can't keep?"
Shooting Sasuke one final grin he then threw himself forward, his body landing on the grass in front of him.
Explosions shook the ground and before he knew it, all Sasuke could feel was a powerful burning sensation all over his body, all he could hear was the deafening roar of explosion after explosion shaking the ground beneath them, and all he could see… was red.
A/N: I genuinely hope that the wait was worth it for some of you. But here we have it, the confrontation we'd all been waiting for. I hope it did not disappoint, but if it did, then whoops, sorry.
We're starting to finally reach the end of the story; I'd estimate I have about another 2 or 3 chapters before I wrap it up. It's been a fun ride and I've now officially passed 200k words, which is an insane feat for myself.
As always, please review and let me know what you think.