Disclaimer: Naruto isn't mine. Nao so is, though.
Warning: Fighting. Drama. Angst? Eh. Sure. Angst if you squint.
Interlude - Omniscient - 14
Chōji munched on some chips as he followed behind Asuma. Ino and Nao were behind him, along with Kurenai's team. The two teams were on their way to the Kirigakure Chūnin Exams. Nao seemed particularly nervous about the ordeal, which Chōji could understand. It was a nerve-wracking thing. It was one thing to take lethal exams in your home village, but quite another to do so in foreign territory. And while Kirigakure had extended a peaceful invitation to all the villages, it was still scary.
Although when Chōji later asked Nao what made this exam so nerve-wracking, she said it wasn't the exam at all, but rather the place.
He could understand that. Kirigakure didn't earn the title The Bloody Mist by picking daisies, did they?
Ino chattered happily to Hinata and her sister, exaggerating some of the gossip she had picked up in Konoha. Hinata politely listened, smiling encouragingly, while Nao just nodded her head and fluttered around.
The journey to Kirigakure was long and relatively uneventful. When they reached the village, a couple Kiri Jōnin greeted them, having them sign some paperwork before they escorted them to their hotels.
The teams bunked together, as protocol. Asuma was outside of their room, on the rooftop, taking a smoke, while Chōji, Ino, and Nao huddled around each other on the floor.
"Tomorrow begins the exams," Chōji commented.
Ino's eyes took a spark to them. "I can't wait to show off what I've learned since the last exam! This time we aren't the rookies!"
"Actually, we still are," Nao pointed out tentatively. "Us and Hinata-chan's teams are the youngest."
Ino rolled her eyes. "But aren't rookies. We've got experience now! We're so going to dominate this exam—hey, do you know if Tenten's team is going to come?"
Nao nodded her head. "Tenten said they were going to be in this exam, but they might be late."
"So long as they make it on time," Ino said, shrugging.
"We should probably get some sleep—big day tomorrow," Chōji said.
"You're right," Nao agreed.
. . .
I stared at…at the body I was in.
The girl in the mirror stared back at me.
She was taller. She was wispy and bony and looked sick. Her hair was long, and wild. Her nose was sharper than my own, but her mouth was fuller and her cheeks rosier. Everything about her seemed sharp. From her eyes, to her nails, to the way she moved in abrupt, jerkish movements. Like she had forgotten how to move smoothly. Like she had forgotten how to use her own body.
This can't be real, I thought numbly, poking at the cheek. The girl in the mirror mimicked my actions.
I did not turn around to the teenaged boy who was staring at me with a worried expression. He refused to leave the room, even after I had screamed for all of them to leave me be. The adults had left, promising to get me real food, but the boy remained…persistent.
I glanced over my shoulder at him, finally meeting his flinching gaze with my own. "Get out."
He looked stricken. "Sissy, I—"
"This isn't real," I snapped, anger rushing to me. "This is just a side-effect to the jutsu I used. You are not real."
"What are you talking about? Of course I'm real, I—"
I ripped my IV out, not even flinching at the sharp pain. I knew that the genjutsu was cast in subconscious, so I knew causing pain wouldn't release me from it. I couldn't even find my chakra! It was going to be tricky getting out of here, but…
"What are you doing?!" he demanded, rushing to my side. "Stop! You need those. Please, sissy…"
When he came too close, my hand snapped out and dug into his diaphragm. He had a couple seconds of looking shock and hurt, before he started gagging and choking. I stared at him as he sunk to the floor, annoyance churning in me.
This isn't real, I told myself. Maybe I need to defeat my captors somehow?
I looked around the room, then moved towards the drawers. There were syringes inside, and I pulled out the needles. I held them in my hands, clumsily and awkwardly. This body that I was using was weak, horrendously so.
After all, if I was a real coma patient, I shouldn't even be able to walk on my own—my muscles would be too weak, I thought darkly. Which means I have some control over this world. Make sense, as it's in my own subconscious, but…
I gripped the needles, suddenly feeling a rush of strength.
With my newfound strength, I began to meticulously eliminate those in the hospital.
When I finished, my world went black.
And I woke up, with a tube down my throat, and I gagged.
My eyes were wide and I struggled in the bed, finally managing to rip the tube out as doctors rushed in. "She's awake!"
"I killed you," I said, staring at one of the nameless doctors who rushed to me.
"Someone get her parents! Hello, do you know who you are? Do you know where you are?"
I stared dumbly at the doctor as he continued to drill me with questions and perform all sorts of tests.
I'm back where I woke up.
Maybe I can't kill them? Maybe I have to kill myself?
When the doctor relaxed, my hand snapped out to his pen and I hesitated.
Even in an illusion, I don't particularly relish the idea of killing myself, I thought. But…the fact that this happened in the first place means I moved. Which means something happened and I need to get out of here.
I jabbed the pen into my throat.
My world went black.
And again, I woke up with a tube down my throat.
I tried destroying the hospital. I tried escaping the hospital and just running (but the roads were endless). I tried focusing on a way out, channeling all of my energy to breaking the illusion. I tried offing myself in different ways, starting to get desperate, that maybe I had to do it just right. I tried killing them in different ways, also starting to think that I had to get it just right.
Nothing seemed to work.
When I woke up in the hospital room for the—how many times had it been? I lost count…—whatever time, I did not react immediately. I just stared up the ceiling with blank eyes.
Maybe I'm going at this wrong. Maybe it's not something I can force?
I need to know why this is the genjutsu in the first place. Why am I here, waking up to these strangers and not somewhere else? This is my mind—some buried part of it, maybe, but it's still my mind. There has to be a reason for this.
If I can figure that out…maybe I find out how to get out of here.
But…how can I find out?
I laid in my bed, considering this.
The body I'm in now…it looks an awful lot like that girl from before. The nice one. So maybe…Well, I know she's a part of me. I know she's the personification of the memories I locked away. Could this world…this genjutsu…be a result of those memories? Am I reliving a part of her life or…?
If that's the case, then maybe I'm supposed to play along. Act like her.
But how would I act like her? I hardly know her. I know…I know that she seemed attached to that boy from before. That…Jaymie. She was furious when that creature turned into him. So…so it could be argued that maybe she's like that with all she cares about…? Maybe those two adults from before…her mother and father…?
So do I just need to try and…and act like her? Pretend to love these fake people?
It's not like I have any other plan.
With a plan in mind, I began to make a ruckus, informing them that I was awake.
Let's get this over with.
When the doctors were done with me, the woman and man and the boy entered the room. Each of them were staring at me with wide, watery eyes. I sat up in the bed, plastering on a hesitant smile. "Hi."
The boy—Jaymie?—ran to me and tackled me onto the bed. The moment his arms wrapped around me, this warm fluttering feeling washed over me. My arms reflexively wrapped around him and I started squeezing him tightly.
All at once, my chest started to hurt, like an icicle was being jammed straight into me. My eyes were starting to blur and I could feel the two other adults come towards me and hold me close.
We stayed like that, silent except for the sniffles, and hiccups.
When they were done with me, and my eyes didn't sting so much, they began to tell me all sorts of information. They mostly talked about home, and school, and quite a few people who's names I didn't recognize. I sat through it all, smiling and nodding my head at some parts. I didn't prompt any more conversations, or ask any questions, and they didn't seem to think this was out of the ordinary.
"...so now Roslinde is going to CU," the woman—I find out her name was Lisa. Lisa smiled warmly at me, gripping my hands tightly in her own.
"Don't worry about college, though, sweetheart," the man, Jacob, said firmly. "Right now, you just focus on getting better."
"I'll do my best," I said, my voice coming out scratchy.
They all smiled at me, and again, I felt that pain in my chest.
Why am I feeling this? These people mean nothing to me.
A nurse appeared at the door, her head peeking in as she gave us all a soft smile. "I'm sorry, Mr and Mrs—"
The world rippled, and everything went black and white for a split second. My eyes widened.
"—Yamanaka, but visiting hours are over," the nurse chirped, as the world returned to color.
But this time, it wasn't Lisa, Jacob, or Jaymie who sat at my bed side. It was Ino, Papa, and Momma. The started to get up, and I watched in confusion as they left, each turning to bade me goodbye before leaving.
My brow furrowed in confusion and I looked out the window to watch the sunset, but found instead of a warm pink-purple sky, it was instead a pale tale-green. My eyes widened and I climbed out of the bed, moving to the window.
I opened the window and leaned out—
The world rippled again, and this time I was standing on a grassy cliff, overlooking Konoha.
What the fuck is going on?
Two arms wrapped around me from behind and I barely suppressed my squeal of surprise. A chin rested at the top of my head and a body was pressed against mine. My cheeks warmed.
"It's a pretty view," Yagura commented, hugging me.
"Why are you here?" I whispered.
"Haven't you figured it out?" Yagura asked, seeming amused. "This world is your subconscious. It's only giving you what you want."
"I didn't want those people, though."
"You did. Or, well, she did. She wanted to see them. To hear them. To hold them. For a while, you and she were the same, but you saw that first ripple, didn't you? You two separated, then. And now you are in your own little version—at least a portion of it."
"We separated? How?"
Yagura cupped my head and tilted my head to look up at him, his eyes sparkling with mischief. "Does it matter?"
"Yes. It means she was able to control the genjutsu long enough to make a signifant change. If I knew how to do that, I may be able to break out of here."
"Do you want to do that?" Yagura asked dubiously, stepping back and away from me.
I blinked in surprise at his question. "What do you mean—"
The world rippled and I stumbled. My eyes widened when I found myself staring down at a body that was not mine. A mirror appeared to my left and I found myself staring at a much older version of me, Yagura beside me. Both of my eyes were unscarred and working.
"Why do you wanna leave?" Ino asked beside me, appearing to my left. She hooked her arm through mine and smiled at me. "This is your dream world, isn't it? Why do you want to leave?"
I shifted uncomfortably. "It's not real. It's just an illusion—a lie. Besides, I'm needed out there. Something happened to cause this—Sasuke needs me."
"Who cares about Sasuke?" Yagura retorted. "Don't you want to stay here—with me?"
"You're not real," I argued, suddenly feeling anxious. "I'm not…We're not…"
"Are you ashamed of me?" Yagura asked suddenly, his tone mocking.
"No," I said, shaking my head.
"Are you ashamed of the thought of us?"
"I'm not ashamed about that at all!"
"Then why haven't you told me?" Ino asked. "I'm your sister. I thought you told me everything."
I shook my head. "Because it's not…we aren't… "
"...and you don't want me to think poorly of you for it," Ino finished, "because you're ashamed."
I shook my head again, pursing my lips. "You guys are just figments of my imagination, which means you know how I feel. It's pointless to argue this with you. I need to focus on getting out of here."
Kakashi grabbed my hand. "Why don't you want to stay?"
I turned around to where he had appeared, tugging my hand free. "I already told you! I'm needed elsewhere. I have to go."
"But you don't have to die here."
"Die…? I'm not dying," I sighed, my stomach churning. I was anxious. This place seemed…wrong, somehow. At the hospital, it was alien and unfamiliar, but at the same time, comforting. I knew, now, why that was. The girl from before desperately craved that place, and it was her dream place. This place was supposed to be my dream place, but yet it wasn't. There was something fundamentally wrong about this place and Kakashi's words about me dying…
The girl from before and I were one. Does that mean it's possible that the orb…the voices…the bad thing inside of me…are we one, too? Is it influencing this place?
Well…only one way to find out. If this place really is my dream come true…then I should have control, over it, shouldn't I?
I willed for everyone to disappear.
The world rippled, and my surroundings and everyone dissolved away into blackness.
Then there was a snap, and everything was back.
"Figured it out, then?" Kakashi asked, cocking his head. Naruto and Sasuke flanked him. "Just as well. I was hoping to just have you stay here, and then I wouldn't have to deal with you, but…"
"You're the one keeping me in this genjutsu, now, aren't you?" I asked. "That first ripple would have set me free, but you took control, didn't you?"
"That annoying girl separated all of us and disrupted the genjutsu," Yagura muttered.
"You aren't going to win this," I said, my hands raising into the first sign. "If I finish what I started, if I seal you, this genjutsu will be over."
Naruto snarled at me. "Why do you want to do this? I'm helping you! You won't die this way!"
"I'm not going to die anytime soon," I muttered.
Ino glowered at me. "You don't know that, do you? If you die, I die—we all die. Don't be so selfish!"
"You were the one trying to kill me earlier," I snorted.
"I was just having fun! I would never kill you," Sasuke insisted.
"Stop talking through my friends," I snapped, moving into the next sign. "It doesn't matter what you say now. You can't know the future—you can't know my future, at least, so just stop. I get that I wasn't always Nao. I get that I knew some things. I get that it was too painful to know, but guess what? I don't care. This…this is my life and yeah…yeah…I've made some mistakes and yeah it's going to get hard, but that's okay.
"I'm not alone in this. I have a loving family. I have amazing friends. And I have the best sensei anyone could ask for," I finished, raising my chin up defiantly. "And right now, one of my best friends needs me, so I can assure you this—there is nothing you can say or do that's going to stop me from helping him!"
The world rippled, turning into complete and utter darkness. A mirror image of myself, drained of all color, floated before me, glaring at me. "I can't stop you from sealing me, but I can stop you from killing us. Shut up, and listen. Get out of the village. Pein will come—it's almost time. When Jiraiya leaves the village, he won't be returning and that's when you need to leave. He'll come after Naruto, Yagura, and you."
"Naruto and Yagura because they're jinchuuriki, and you because you stupidly talked to Obito," the reflection snapped. Then it smiled and started to giggle. "Good thing I interrupted your sessions before you reallyblabbed about the important things!"
"Obito-ue? What does Obito-ue have to do with this…? Those times at the grave…those eyes…were they not my imagination?"
It giggled more loudly, seeming to find great amusement from my questions. "You're so stupid! He knows you know something and he's afraid you know too much. You do, but yet you don't! Isn't it ironic? When Pein comes, he'll come, too. So you better hide or else you'll give away secrets that'll kill everyone you love."
I hesitated before I moved to the next sign to seal it. "...What do you mean? Hide from Obito…?"
"Obito, Tobi, Madara, whatever," It dismissed. "Just hide."
My brow furrowed. "But if the village needs me—"
"The village will be fine in the end if Naruto goes to train," It snorted, crossing its arms across its chest. "You can't let anyone know where you're going—or you can just go to the place where no one will find you."
A chill ran down my spine. "How can I trust you?"
"You already do, at least with this information," It cooed. "You know I'm not lying—and she would be telling you to do the same. When you see the orange-masked man, don't hesitate to hide, little girl. Protect your village from Pein all you want—just stay away from Tobi. When he sees that you're out of his reach, he'll leave."
My hands formed into the next sign. "...Why are you telling me this? Why are you helping me?"
"Because it's my instinct," It answered honestly. "I was born to keep you alive. That Mark festered and fed upon those locked up memories until I was born. The Mark's most basic instinct is self-preservation." It cocked its head curiously. "You have only yourself to blame for my creation, you know. If you hadn't run away from your memories, or if you hadn't stupidly jumped in front of Sasuke, I wouldn't even be needed."
"The Curse Mark created you…that explains your sadistic-ness," I muttered dryly. "No wonder you acted so erratically—you're insane. A literal personification of my repressed memories, given life from the energies of the Curse Mark. How can I trust any words that you're saying?"
It smiled at me. "You don't have a choice in the matter. Besides, when he comes for you, you'll see for yourself. Oh…when the war comes…it'd probably be best if you stayed close to Naruto and Bee. Don't stay at the Headquarters, no matter what you do."
My eyes narrowed and I moved my hands into the final seal.
I opened my eyes, gasping.
"Are you okay?"
My eyes snapped over to Sasuke's voice. He was crouching beside me, his shirt torn to shreds and the rest of him was a little tattered.
"What happened?" I demanded.
Sasuke sat back tiredly, rubbing his forehead. "Akatsuki member Deidara happened."
I looked around the area, not finding any struggle.
"He blew himself up," Sasuke said dryly. "I remembered yours and Yagura's report on him. I figured if I pissed him off enough, he'd actually blow himself up. Was easier than I thought it would be—he doesn't really like Uchihas—and just as he was moving, I grabbed you and reverse summoned us."
"...Where are we?"
There was a sharp caw above us, and Sasuke gave a wry smile. "We had teleported to Taron, and Katame flew us back to our country. We're still many kilometers away from home, but…"
I looked up at the big, brown hawk that circled above us. "Thank you, Katame-san."
He gave another caw before he disappeared in a puff of smoke.
"When he grabbed you before the reverse summon, he grabbed a bit too hard," Sasuke said, looking down pointedly at my shoulder. About that time did I notice that it was actually burning. I looked over at it and found my shirt was actually torn, revealing a half-stitched wound. "I'd been stitching up what I could. Not really an expert on it, but…"
"It'll do. Thanks," I said, pointedly looking away from the disgusting wound.
Sasuke gave a dark smile. "It'll have to, won't it? When I'm done, let's head home."
"Sounds wonderful," I said, smiling.
. . .
Interlude - Nao's POV - 14
I gently scrubbed away the dirt that had gathered on Obito's grave. The bluebells I had brought were already placed properly and I had swept away the leaves that had fallen around his grave. All that's left was to clean away the dirt and grime that had gathered since my last visit.
"I got a letter from Naruto and Sasuke today," I told Obito. "They're both doing well. So far, the Akatsuki haven't found them, which is good. I'll be leaving Konoha next week. I know, I know, I just got back from the Chūnin Exams, but…"
I gave a helpless shrug. "Sensei wants us to start training. We won't stay out of the village for long, and we won't be leaving the country. I should be back within a month or so."
Carefully withdrawing the washcloth, I dipped it back into the warm water and started on a new spot.
A chill ran down my spine, and this time I focused my chakra.
I couldn't sense any other chakra near me, nor could I hear anyone. Yet I just could not shake the feeling that someone was watching me.
"Kakashi told me you loved Rin," I said, deciding to dismiss my worries. No enemies could enter the village this far in. The only enemies inside the village were ROOT and Danzo, but neither had any reason to eavesdrop on me here, and the words I spoke were undoubtedly nothing new to them. It would be a waste of their time.
Logically, there should have been no reason for my discomfort.
Yet…yet I felt as though the eyes sharpened.
"He showed me a couple pictures of her," I went on, "she's very pretty. He said she was very nice and wanted to be a medical-nin. I'm sorry what happened to her, but at least you two can be together now, right?"
Dipping the washcloth back in the water, I wringed it and set it down. I wiped my hands on my shorts, drying them, and I thoughtfully eyed his grave.
"Kakashi said you never told her how you felt—he said he never understood why you didn't tell her," I whispered, dropping my voice. "But I get it. You aren't alone, Obito-ue."
Standing up, I stretched and picked up the washbucket, smiling. "I hope you're happy wherever you are, Obito-ue. And now that I know about Rin, I'll start taking care of her grave for you, okay?"
As I walked away, I could have sworn the eyes softened.
Alright well, this A/N kinda goes for all my stories that I'm updating. The reason I haven't been on FF, Tumblr, deviantART or my gmail account is because 1.) my keyboard died 2.) my phone broke and 3.) I was broke. Now, though, I have a brand new phone, and two keyboards (an extra one in case this one dies).
To apologize for my techno troubles and lack of updates, I decided to update all of my Naruto stories at once, along with a bonus CHIPPED MASK after story in Fading Memories. :)
Wonderful fanart! Big thanks to BlackTopGirl and Mai-Shibata-Uchiha! Links on profile or ya can go give their deviantART gallery some love.
Don't worry if this arc confused you. Nao will address exactly what happened later on. :)
Answer: Finish all the stories I have in my mind, put them down on paper, so to speak.
Question: If you had only a handful of minutes left, what would you do in those minutes? What would be the very last thing you would do?
Reviews are love!