Unmasked


. . .

"No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible."

-Voltaire

. . .


Previously:

"You are now trapped in a Genjutsu." Naruto's eyes widened.

"Now now, don't panic. The whole class is. They're all trapped in their own version of this genjutsu. You see, this technique, while a bit low-leveled, is quite different from the usual. For the next," Shisui paused and looked at his watch. "Forty minutes, you are trapped here. Your goal is to simply find a way to dispel the jutsu. If, after forty minutes, you cannot, the genjutsu will dispel itself automatically. Your time starts...now."

"Wait-" Naruto managed to blurt before Shisui dissappeared. One by one, the chairs and tables too, began to dissappear, until soon he was left by himself in pitch-black darkness. Again.

Shit.


Chapter Nine

Fated Meetings


Sasuke opened his eyes and blinked twice, adjusting to the light. He looked around to see all of his classmates frozen in their seats. He smiled inwardly. I was first.

"It seems you were the first to break the genjutsu, Sasuke." Sasuke looked up to see Shisui's figure looming over his desk. A small smile made its way onto Sasuke's face. As if on cue, Shisui smiled too, this time from eye to eye. "The first to break the genjutsu. Two people never got caught in the first place." Sasuke's smile turned downwards into a frown.

"Hn." Sasuke sulked as Shisui ruffled his hair and laughed at the boy's childishness. "We have to wait for the others to break the genjutsu before continuing the class, however. You can join the other two people in the Academy grounds, I will call you when the class will resume again."

Sasuke nodded and was about to leave when another boy sitting behind him blinked his eyes open.

"Ah, Shikamaru-san!" he heard Shisui-sensei exclaim before he tuned his teacher out and took care of his belongings. I was third.

At least I was faster than that Nara, he assured himself. That must count for something.

Shaking his head, he made for the door.

Of course he knew it didn't matter. I must be first in everything. His hand clenched into a fist as he thought, I must be better than Itachi.

And then suddenly, he began having problems breathing. There was a presence in the air. Something sinister. Malevolent. The room was turning colder as each second passed, the smell of sulfur filling the air. Eyes wide, he turned towards where he felt the sinister chakra was coming from.

It was coming from the blonde boy who was sitting beside the Nara…what the hell? The killing intent was too much for him- panicking, he scrabbled sideways as if to move away from the source. Clutching a desk to steady himself, he blinked.

The sound of shattering glass filled his ears, and the pressure on him suddenly eased. He saw a shadow move across him, heard a whisper in his ear: "Class is over. Go home."

Shaking his head, he looked for the boy who was nowhere to be found. Shisui took him then. But…what was that?

He looked up to see the Nara staring at him. "Troublesome." he mouthed and put his head on his desk.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

After what seemed like an eternity, Naruto heard the sound of dripping water. He opened his eyes slowly.

Where am I? He wondered, taking in the view around him. Water sloshed around his feet as he began to stand up, taking support from the wall beside him. Pipes that continuously dripped water were attached to the ceiling directly overhead. Naruto blinked, trying his best to piece together what had happened. The last thing he remembered was seeing a red light coming from his stomach when Shisui had left him in the darkness.

Maybe this is all a part of the genjutsu, he thought, running a hand through his damp hair. He moved his hand to feel the wall.

But...everything feels so real.

And wet. Naruto began walking slowly towards the dim, red light emanating from the end of the path. After what may have been hours, he stopped. Ahead of him, heavy gates loomed in the darkness.

'...closer...' A disembodied voice hissed in Naruto's ears, making him jump. He could now see pure, red chakra circling around the gates, hissing and crackling like a living flame. Two red, slit eyes slowly became visible in the darkness behind the gates.

'...come closer...' The monster opened its fanged jaws in a gaping grin. Naruto took a step back, shaking his head. This is not real- he muttered to himself. But he was drawn to the gates even as he tried to back off, like a moth to a flame. The monster's claws clanged against the gates, its set of fangs opening further and further as Naruto came closer.

Naruto hesitated as he stood in front of the gates. His hands were shaking uncontrollably, his face was pale and he was drenched in sweat. He opened his mouth to ask the creature what it was, but all that came out was a feeble- "W-what.."- in response, the creature itself moved closer to the gates, to finally reveal itself to Naruto. '...so we finally meet, boy...'

A cold breeze fluttered through the sewer.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Where is he? Sasuke wondered as he stood beneath the shade of a large tree in training ground #11. Itachi had told him to wait here after his day at the academy ended, because he needed to talk about something very important. Sasuke had been waiting eagerly for about an hour now, in part because he had hoped that Itachi would help him make sense of what happened during Shisui's lesson which had cut short their first day at the academy. A small part of him also wanted to reconnect with his brother, who had been distant for some months now.

A very small part, he assured himself.

He heard heavy footfalls approach him, and thinking it was Itachi who had finally come, he smiled and began to speak quickly, "What took you so long? I've been waiting-" he cut himself off abruptly as the visage of the person came into view. It was of course, not his brother as he had expected, but someone else entirely. It was a tall man with extremely pale skin and waist-length black hair. He had a long face with pronounced cheekbones, amber eyes with slits in his pupils and purple markings around his eyes. The face of the man seemed familiar, but Sasuke could not quite place where he'd seen him.

"Sorry," Sasuke muttered. "I mistook you for someone else."

The man smiled. "It's quite alright, boy," he said, waving his hand. "What concerns me more is you standing in the training ground that is explicitly reserved for ANBU ninjas only, without permission. Who is it that you're waiting for, exactly?"

"Oh- I'm sorry! I didn't know that. My brother told me to come here and wait for him," Sasuke paused for a moment and then added, "But I don't think he's coming anymore..."

"And who is this brother of yours? Perhaps I might know of him." The smile was still on the man's face, but it seemed fake, even to Sasuke.

"Itachi. Uchiha Itachi." Sasuke said.

The man laughed. It was a crazy, manic laugh, making Sasuke take a step back. "What's so funny? And who are you anyway?" he asked, feeling annoyed that someone was laughing at the mention of his brother.

After a while, the man stopped. "Ah, I apologize. It's just that I was with him but a moment ago. I'm quite sure he isn't coming for you then, seeing as he got an important mission."

"Oh..."

"As to your second question," The man straightened up, his yellow eyes shining with enthusiasm. "I'm Orochimaru. You may know of me."

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Author's Notes:

Small chapter. Well, a really small chapter. But I couldn't help myself- it's been two months since I last updated, and a short update is better than none, right?