A.N. My shot at an AU story. Just so you know, this will be a time-travel fic, and because the manga is changing so much at the time of my writing, some things will not match up to canon(When Obito's back story was revealed, I had to rework the whole first part of this chapter). Constructive criticism is appreciated.
Warning: For those of you have read my previous work, some of the content of this story may shock you. It's A LOT darker than what I usually write. You have been warned.
On another note, before I get reviews telling me to use the proper lingo, let me point out that I speak English, so I will be following English rules when I'm writing this story. For example, I am going to say Naruto Uzumaki, not Uzumaki Naruto. I will also be staying away from honorifics such as chan, kun, san, etc. . .The only Japanese you will see in here will be the names and the occasional jutsu like Rasengan or blood-line limits such as Sharingan and Byakugan. Nothing against Japanese, but I've got enough to think about without adding in all of their rules as well. I'm sorry if this puts a bee in anyone's bonnet.
Also, this chapter switches POV a lot. Sorry if that's a bit disorienting, but I'm only doing it to cover everything that's going on in Konoha. I won't be shifting characters as much in later chapters, just bear with me.
Finally, I am borrowing a character from another world in this chapter. Brownie points, and a shout-out, to any reader who can tell me who it is and where he is from. I'm going to explain exactly who he is and where he's from in the AN of the next chapter.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or any other copyrighted things inside this story.
Chapter 1: Pleased to Meet You
"Are you sure that it's okay for you to sneak out of the office like this?" the pink-haired woman asked, picking up her step to keep up with the blond walking on her left. The path they were walking on was completely deserted, as no one came out to this part of the forest very often. It was a nice change after the excited mass of people preparing for the festival in Konoha.
"Of course, Sakura! I am the Hokage, ya know. I kinda make the rules." He chuckled and switched the basket he was carrying in his right hand to his left, "Besides, I think a shadow clone is more than capable of handling a few stacks of paperwork while I take my wife out on a picnic. It's a special occasion after all." Reaching out, he grasped her hand with his free one.
Sakura shrugged, "If you say so. After all, I'm not the one who's going to be screamed at when Lady Tsunade finds out."
"Nah, I don't think Grandma will have anything to say about it. After all, she wasn't exactly known for her work ethic at the tower."
"If you think that will stop her from getting pissed, you've forgotten who you're talking about."
Naruto chuckled, "Yeah, you've got a point. But a little lecture is well worth spending the whole day with you for a change."
Laughing, Sakura squeezed his hand affectionately, "My knight in shining armor."
Naruto set the basket down carefully and dropped to one knee in front of her. "Now let us be off, my fair maiden, as I have found us a hidden sanctuary in these dangerous woods that is sure to protect us from the slave-driving council leader!"
"Whisk me away, Sir Knight!" She began giggling uncontrollably as he handed her the basket and scooped her up in his arms. With the pink-haired woman held securely in his arms, Naruto ran full speed towards the clearing where they had planned to spend their evening.
"It really is amazing, isn't it?" Sakura asked, stowing the remains of their meal back into the basket. Above her, the bright sky had deepened to a navy blue.
"What?" Naruto replied from where he lounged opposite to her.
Sakura rolled her eyes, "Don't play dumb, Naruto. I know you've been thinking about what happened."
Propping himself up on one arm, Naruto smiled at her, "I guess I have been. It's hard to believe what happened all those years ago."
"Five years, to be exact. You better get ready to stop another evil tyrant soon, or people will begin to forget what a legend you are," Sakura teased. Flicking the sole of his bare foot she added, "And get those things away from my basket, I don't want my next picnic to smell like your dirty feet."
As Naruto pulled his feet back, a firework exploded in the distance, creating a kaleidoscope of colors in the starry sky and briefly illuminating the village below. "Look, the festival is starting. I didn't realize it was that late." He sat up and slid over so that he was sitting next to her. She immediately leaned her head against his shoulder, and smiled as another firework exploded. "Beautiful," the blond whispered, wrapping his arm around his wife's shoulders.
"They are, aren't they? I just love fireworks."
"I wasn't talking about the fireworks, Mrs. Uzumaki." Naruto was so close that his breath tickled her neck, sending a shiver up her spine. "And earlier...I wasn't talking about how I kicked Obito's ass, that's really not that hard to believe."
Sakura turned towards her husband just in time to see his face illuminated by another flash of light. "Oh? Then what's so hard to believe?"
"It was five years ago today that I kissed the most beautiful woman in the world for the first time."
Sakura's face flushed, "Well, we don't want to break a tradition, do we?" She leaned up and pecked him on the cheek. "There, now we can enjoy the rest of this firework show in-" She stopped talking as his strong fingers gently grabbed her chin and tilted her head back up.
"Don't tease me now, Sakura," he whispered huskily, pressing his mouth against hers. Their tongues danced together for close to a minute, before Naruto pulled back, panting.
Sakura shoved him over and straddled his waist, "Oh, come on, fox boy, you've gotta do better than that!" She leaned down and kissed him softly on the jaw, "Now," she whispered, "Don't make me do all the work." Her mouth was on his again, catching his lower lip gently between her teeth. Naruto's arms wrapped around her torso, pressing her body tightly against his own, and rolled over so that he was on top.
"Oh, don't worry. I wouldn't dream of it."
They made love under the stars as fireworks of every color exploded above them. It was the perfect night, and they basked in blissful ignorance as their bodies seemed to meld into one. Nothing foreshadowed what tragedies awaited them in the coming hours, and it was just as well, because there was nothing they could have done to stop the night's events from unfolding. Some things cannot be stopped.
Two figures stood opposite to each other. One was dark-haired, the other light-haired. One had a pair of mismatched eyes, the other vivid blue. One was evil, the other good. They were opposites in every way, and they were on opposite sides in this battle.
Both were weary from hours of fighting, but neither would stop. They lunged at each other again, one seeming to blur-in-and-out of existence, the other carried by a streak of yellow light. They clashed in mid-air, exchanged a few blows, then bounced back.
"Stop this, Obito!" Naruto pleaded, circling around the other man.
The dark-haired man mirrored his movements, keeping the blond in his sight. "This is the only way to bring peace to this world. I will not stop until I have achieved that goal!" Obito lunged forward, throwing a punch at Naruto's head.
Batting the blow aside, Naruto retaliated with kick that met with nothing but air as Obito sent his midsection into another dimension to avoid the blow. "Kakashi told me about you! You used to be a good man. I don't know what happened to change you, but please try to remember what you used to be like!"
Obito slammed his hands on the ground, causing the earth to erupt into dozens of jagged spikes. "Kakashi was a fool and my old self is dead! Idealism won't save this world, action will!"
Naruto danced around the spikes as they popped up from the ground. He bounced off the last one, propelling himself towards his opponent, a Rasengan spinning in his right hand. He brought it down on Obito's head, but again met with nothing but air as the other man allowed part of his body to fade out of existence. The ground shattered as the ball of chakra slammed against it, throwing up a storm of dust from the barren waste land.
Obito cursed as his vision was obscured by the cloud. A moment later, his breath was forced from his lungs as Naruto's foot made contact with the Uchiha's gut. They once again jumped away from each other.
"This isn't what Rin would have wanted!"
Obito's face contorted with rage. "Don't you dare speak of her as if you knew her! I've had enough! It's time to end this!"
"I couldn't agree more!" The voice that screamed this was Naruto's, but it came not from the man standing in front of Obito, but from behind him. Pain shot through Obito's body like a bolt of lightning as a shadow clone slapped a seal on the back of his neck.
The disfigured man fell to his knees, unable to support his weight on a pair of legs that felt like water. "What the hell did you do to me?"
Naruto walked around from behind the other man. "Just a simple seal, but effective nonetheless. It jumbles the electric pulses from your nervous system. Don't worry, it's not permanent, I just need you still for a few minutes." Naruto bit his right thumb and pressed the bleeding digit against Obito's forehead. With his other hand, he began forming several different signs.
A deep cold set into Obito, seeming to leak in from the spot that the jinchuuriki was touching him. Drawing on his deep reserves of chakra, Obito began to fight Naruto with all his strength. "Release me, you fool. I am going to be the leader of this world! Obey me!"
Beads of perspiration began to build on Naruto's brow as he met with Obito's resistance. The pace at which he formed the signs increased, his fingers becoming a blur of motion. His breathing changed, becoming ragged and uneven as he continued to fight Obito's chakra. Bit by bit, he pushed the other man back, until, with a last surge of energy, he broke past the defenses and set his seal into motion.
Obito began screaming as his eyes erupted into pure agony. "You demon brat! Stop!"
Naruto's hand fell from Obito's head, leaving a single smear of blood. "It's over, Obito."
Hands covering his eyes, Obito began shaking his head back and forth. "No! Give them back! This world will continue to wallow in the muck if I don't save it!"
A bolt of lightning streaked across the sky, followed quickly by the boom of thunder. A sudden deluge of rain followed soon after, dousing them in seconds.. "You can't fight anymore. I've taken your sight, Obito, and with it, I've taken not only your Sharingan, but your Rinnegan as well."
Obito swung a blind fist, "I'll fucking kill you! Give me back my eyes!"
"I still think there is good in you, Obito. But there is an evil inside you as well, stronger than anything I've ever felt. I have rooted the seal into this evil, and if you truly change, then your sight will be restored." Naruto fixed the other man with a cold look. "That being said, you have caused the deaths of many good people in this senseless war, so I am only going to warn you once." Kneeling down, Naruto grabbed a fistful of Obito's hair, wrenching his head back painfully. "If I see you anywhere near this village again, I will personally kill you." He released his grip and stood back up. "I've given you a chance. Take it." Naruto turned away from the broken man in front of him and vanished in a flash of yellow light.
His hands still covering his eyes, Obito threw his head back and screamed.
Naruto opened his eyes a crack, the last images of his dream still burning in his mind. It was dark, but he made out the crop of Sakura's pink hair next to him. He rolled over and hugged her naked body to his chest. Her hand unconsciously came up and gripped his between her breasts. It wasn't long before Naruto had once again drifted off into sleep.
Blackness. Naruto saw only blackness. A dark so consuming that it invaded his very soul and replaced his blood with ice. He slowly became aware of screaming. The voice was filled with pain and anger, but its words were incomprehensible. Naruto tried to pinpoint its location but it seemed to be coming from everywhere at once.
". . . I said get out!" The voice was faint but it carried conviction.
The whole world seemed to shake as a voice answered, "Who me? Half this body is mine, I've got as much a right to be here as you."
Naruto's body began to tremble at the sound of the voice. The sound of it could not described. It made him want to run as far away as he could. He tried to move, but his legs had turned into lead.
". . . You said what we were doing was the right thing! You were wrong. I'm done with you!"
The other voice laughed. "Now that isn't very nice. It's not my fault you can't do anything right."
". . . If you refuse to leave. . .Than I will seal us both away. I know it won't kill you, but it will sure as hell set your plans back a few centuries."
There was a pause, the silence of which was almost worse than the sound of that horrible voice. "Very well, Obito. I shall vacate the premises at once. But, I want you to say it just one more time. For old time's sake."
The other voice hesitated for a long moment. Then, quavering, it whispered, "My life for you."
Naruto woke up with a jolt, his heart racing. The dream however, was already quickly fading from his mind. Sitting up, he rubbed the sand from his eyes and tried to shake the feeling of uneasiness that had settled like a cold stone in his stomach. He glanced down and saw a very nude Sakura, sound asleep at his side. This immediately lifted his mood; leaning down, he kissed her softly on her forehead. "Wake up, sleepy-head."
"Leave...alone..." Sakura mumbled drowsily, rolling over so that her back was to him.
"You leave me no choice then..." A fox-like grin splitting his face, Naruto lunged forward and began tickling the pink-haired woman, his fingers dancing softly across her skin.
Sakura flailed, trying to escape his ministrations. "S-stop it!" she stuttered, fighting back giggles. "Damn it, Naruto, I'm trying to sleep!" She squirmed away and sat up on her knees. Without hesitation, she tackled him and began to tickle him in retaliation.
The two of them rolled around, laughing, each one trying to stay on top. Finally, they came to a stop, sweaty and out of breath. "You know, I don't normally get tackled by naked women, but I have to say that I found it rather enjoyable. Feel free to do it anytime. I'll even help you take your clothes off."
"Ah, and they say chivalry is dead," Sakura said, rolling her eyes.
They laid there on the grass for a while, looking up at the stars and enjoying each other's company. "We should get ready to head back home," Naruto murmured, breaking the comfortable silence that had filled the air around them.
Sakura propped herself up on her elbow. "Not yet," she whispered, shaking her head. "I have something to tell you."
"Oh?" Naruto asked, intrigued. "What is it?"
The pink-haired woman took a shaky breath and grasped his hand in both of hers. She brought his palm down and rested it on her stomach. "I'm pregnant, Naruto."
The blond's eyes widened, "What?"
Sakura averted her gaze. "I found out for sure yesterday..." She shifted uncomfortably. "You don't sound very happy..."
Naruto smiled, his teeth flashing in the dim light. "Are you kidding? This is great!" He leaned down and placed an ear to her tummy. "Is it a boy or a girl? Is it gonna have your eyes or mine? Will its hair be pink? What about its nose?"
Sakura giggled, pushing his head away. "I don't know, Naruto! You'll have to wait and see." She rolled her eyes, "Honestly, to think I was worried that you might not take the news well."
"Ah, come on! You know me better than that!" he chided, grinning.
An explosion sounded from far away, causing both of them to sit up straight. "I thought the fireworks were over."
Before Naruto could respond, a series of booms echoed from multiple directions, followed by the sound of crashing stone. Both of them were on their feet and getting dressed in an instant. "We need to get to outpost B," Naruto said quickly, pulling up his pants and buckling his belt. "Hopefully the Aburames' bug network can tell us what's going on."
Sakura zipped up her skirt and bent down to grab her blouse. "No, those explosions sounded bad. People are bound to be hurt," Sakura said, pulling the blouse over her head. "I've got to get out there as soon as possible."
"There's no telling what's happened..." Naruto began.
"If I don't get out there, a lot of people are going to die," Sakura said, cutting him off sharply. Her tone softened as she added, "Don't worry, Naruto. I'm a grown woman; I can take care of myself."
Naruto closed the distance between them pulled her into an embrace. He gently pushed her away, his hands resting on her shoulders. "Please be careful," he whispered, his sapphire eyes locked with her emerald ones. Pulling her in again, he pressed his mouth against hers briefly. "I love you."
Sakura took a shaky breath. "I love you too, Naruto."
The smell of smoke hung thickly in the air throughout the Village Hidden in the Leaves; its acrid odor overpowering all other scents. Screams and clashing metal echoed throughout the streets, occasionally interrupted by the sound of a jutsu activating.
Naruto was met with this scene as he appeared in a flash of yellow above the watch tower of Outpost B. Above him, the sky glowed red from the light cast by the burning village below it. "How could it have gotten this bad so quickly?" Naruto wondered out loud, opening the entrance hatch and dropping down into the interior of the tower.
The inside of the tower was buzzing with activity. Naruto pushed his way through the crowds of confused citizens who had been allowed inside when the fighting had broken out. He saw Shino standing near a window, watching the activity below. "Shino!" he called, running up to stand beside him. "What the hell is going on?"
The Aburame turned to look at him, surprised. "Naruto? You're alive?"
"What?" Naruto asked, confused. "Of course I am. Why wouldn't I be?"
"The Hokage tower was destroyed before the walls were even breached. A messenger reported seeing you at your desk minutes before the explosion."
"That was only a shadow clone. I took the day off today, but. . ." Naruto's heart began to race. "What about the council? Grandma Tsunade? Did they get out of there?"
Shino averted his gaze, "We haven't been able to sort through the rubble, but reports put the council inside the building when it exploded."
Naruto gritted his teeth. "Have we been compromised?"
"It seems so. We were attacked from the inside at the same time we were attacked from the outside. The enemy must have had sleeper agents inside of our walls." Shino led Naruto over to a table with a map unfurled across it. He pointed to several areas that had been circled in red, "Our scouts have stopped reporting in at these locations."
"What about the civilians?" Naruto asked, leaning over to get a closer look at the map.
Shino moved his finger over to the center of the map, near the Hokage Monument. "Civilians that are in non-contested zones are being moved into the bunkers inside of the cliff face." Shino paused and gestured to the people around them, "Those who are in areas that are under attack have been moved to any defensible location."
"Do we know who's behind the attack?"
"No, anyone who has engaged the enemy has stated that they wear no identifying gear. We have some medic ninja examining enemy corpses, but we have yet to find out anything as to their allegiances."
Naruto looked closer at the map, taking in the multiple red marks that splattered the page. "God, Shino. How bad is it?"
Shino turned his face in Naruto's direction, and even with the sunglasses obscuring his eyes, Naruto knew that he was staring at him. "Thirty-five percent of our forces were lost in the initial exchange. The enemy planted explosives in areas with high shinobi population. They launched their ground attack from within the festival when the explosives went off." He shook his head, looking away. "With all the drinking that had been going on, no one down there was really fit to be fighting. It was a slaughter, civilians and shinobi included."
"So we're only at sixty-five percent capability? Subtract the number of people we have out on missions right now and that leaves us at less than fifty percent..Who's organizing the defense efforts?"
"Shikamaru took over as acting general when we first thought you had died. He and all the ninja he could gather are on the front line." Shino pointed to a mark on the map, "They're trying to push the enemy back but it's not working. He's being flanked by the infiltrators and they're picking off his soldiers faster than he can retaliate."
Naruto stepped back, "I need to get to him then." The blond looked around at the dozens of people milling around. "Do you have enough men to hold this position?"
Shino shook his head. "For now, maybe. But when the bulk of their army gets here, we'll be forced to evacuate."
Clapping the other man on the shoulder, Naruto said, "Then I'll just have to stop this thing before they reach you." He gestured to the people around them, "Keep them safe, Shino. Whatever it takes. We've lost enough people today." When Shino gave an affirmative nod, Naruto turned and jumped out of the window onto the rooftops below.
Sweat dripped from Sakura's brow as she held her glowing hands over the bloody mess of Neji Hyuuga's right leg. The young man held a stony expression even as the chakra knitted his flesh back together. As the glow faded from her hands, Sakura sat back and wiped the sweat from her eyes. "There, you should be able to get back to an encampment now."
Neji shook his head, climbing to his feet shakily. "No. My place is here," he said as he tested his weight on his injured leg.
"Neji, what I did was patchwork at best. Your leg won't stand up to any strain, it'll just re-open."
"The only way I'm leaving here is when this battle is over." He smiled bitterly, shifting his weight onto his good leg. "Or in a body bag I suppose. The latter option seems a bit more likely at this point.
Sakura sighed and got up. "I can see there's no arguing with you."
Neji rested a hand on her shoulder. "Thank you, Sakura. Stay safe, there are still a lot of people who need your help. As for me," chakra flooded into his eyes, causing the veins on his face to bulge, "I figure I'll cause as much hell as I can before they take me down." His outline blurred, and the next moment Sakura was alone in the street where she had found the wounded Hyuuga.
She turned and ran towards the sounds of battle, her senses on high-alert. Before long, she began to see small skirmishes in the streets around her. She didn't pause to intervene, however, because she knew she would need all of her energy to make a difference on the front lines.
Sakura could smell the battlefield before she could see it. The stench of burned flesh and other more unpleasant odors flooded her nostrils as she drew near to the main body of the army. She gagged, covering her mouth and nose with her hands. She reached into her supply pouch and pulled out a small tube of a strongly scented peppermint paste. After quickly squeezing some out onto her finger, she rubbed the paste onto her upper-lip.
The disgusting odors now effectively neutralized, Sakura resumed her journey into the bulk of the battle. She soon saw a barricade in the street several hundred yards ahead of her, illuminated by glowing torches. It didn't take her long to recognize the loud voice of Kiba Inuzuka.
"Get that left flank secured! If we go down, there's nothing stopping them from overrunning the residential district!"
"Kiba!" she called, waving her hands to catch his attention.
He stopped shouting and looked around until he caught sight of her. Returning the wave, he began jogging out to her location. They met at the half-way point and began walking back up the hill together.
"Boy, am I glad to see you," Kiba said, rolling his shoulders. "Our medic ninja stepped on a land mine early on and blew his goddamned legs off. Now I've got a dozen soldiers that have made their way back here for medical treatment, and we can't do shit for them."
"Do you have any contact with the other platoons?"
Kiba shook his head, "No. Inoichi has been trying to contact his daughter; Ino's with Shikamaru on the front line right now, but he can't reach her or anyone else."
"Dear God. . ." Sakura whispered, her eyes drinking in the blood-soaked streets. "This is a massacre. How many men do you have left?"
"A little more than two-hundred- not counting the wounded." As they reached the encampment, Kiba led the pink-haired woman to the burned out shop that was serving as his command quarters. "Shikamaru is the only commander with more men than myself, at least he was before we lost contact. There are a few more organized efforts out there, but not on this scale. Plus the ninja who have been separated from the main groups."
Sakura crossed her arms over her chest. "And the enemy? What are their numbers?"
Kiba hesitated, his eyes flickering from her face to the people around them. "Over five hundred in this sector alone. There's an estimated fifteen hundred inside the walls at this time."
The pink-haired woman was shocked. "How did they sneak up on us?"
"We suspect an infiltration cell was inside our walls before the attack started. They must have taken down the look-outs to cover their advance"
"Can you take me to your medical station? I can get to work on the injured." Kiba nodded and began leading Sakura to the relatively intact barbeque restaurant that was being used as a makeshift hospital. "What's the plan?" Sakura asked, digging through her medical bag as they walked towards their destination. "Are you going to help Shikamaru?"
Kiba sighed, and Sakura saw just how tired he looked for the first time. "It's all we can do to keep the enemy from pushing us back. Going forward isn't possible with our numbers, and even if it was, without us here to protect it, the residential district will be destroyed. That's over three-thousand lives, and I'm not going to have their blood on my hands."
"Why aren't they in the bunkers?" Sakura asked, finding what she was looking for in her pack and stowing it back on her hip. She opened the pill container in her hand and popped a small, blue chakra capsule into her mouth and chewed it, doing her best to ignore its chalky taste.
"I'm afraid that if I send a team off to move the civies, the enemy will overrun us. With our numbers, I just can't risk it.." Kiba rubbed his eyes, "Our situation isn't helped by the fact that none of our radios are working. Whoever these people are, they kicked us in the balls and kept on fucking us over from there. Nothing is working like it's supposed to."
Sakura was feeling a little giddy. Chakra capsules were designed to replenish chakra, not supplement it. Because her reserves were practically full, the pill had her overflowing with energy. Energy which she intended to use before it had a chance to dissipate. They reached the medical area and Sakura nodded to Kiba, "Just keep fighting, Kiba. We can do this."
Kiba smiled bitterly, "It's good to hear someone say that. Let me know when you finish up here. If you want, I'll arrange an escort to Shikamaru's last known location."
"Thank you, Kiba," Sakura said, stepping over the threshold into her new workspace.
The smell was the first thing that struck her. Even with the peppermint scented paste on her upper-lip, the odors filling the room made her wrinkle her nose. People were laid out on pallets that had been strewn haphazardly around the former restaurant, with injuries ranging from the minor to the extreme.
The first pallet was occupied by woman whose features were completely unrecognizable. Her skin was covered in third-degree burns and the hair had been singed from the top of her head. The skin that covered her eyes was hanging loosely, a testament to lack of orbs beneath. Her nose, ears, and even her lips had all been burned away, the latter showing her ash-coated teeth in a gruesome smile. Despite her grievous injuries, the woman's chest was rising and falling faintly. Sakura knelt at foot of the pallet and picked up the charred remains of a forehead protector. The fabric had been burned away, but the metal was intact. Turning it over in her hands, Sakura had to bite back a gasp as she read the name engraved on the back.
"Tenten. . ." she whispered, looking at the mangled form before her. Looking around, she quickly took stock of the remaining shinobi. Counting Tenten, there were seventeen people in need of varying levels of medical care. It hurt her, but she knew that Tenten alone would cost her over half of her remaining chakra. Not to mention the time it would take to regrow the skin that had been burned off of her body. It just wasn't practical to spend so much time and chakra to stabilize a ninja who would never fight again. At the same time, however, she knew that without proper treatment, Tenten would die a slow death It may take her hours to succumb to her injuries, and the war outside was sure to be raging for days.
The pinkette's mind raced. Never before had she been faced with such a decision, and her stomach wrenched at the very idea of what she knew was her only real option. Slowly, she reached into her medical bag and pulled out a red pill case. Even in the dim light, the small skull and crossbones stamped on the front of the case could easily be seen. Sakura flipped open the lid with a pop, the noise deafening in the silence. She reached in and emerged with a little green pill pinched between her thumb and forefinger. She bit back her tears as she gently grasped Tenten's chin with her other hand. The injured kunoichi moaned in pain, but Sakura didn't release her grip. She carefully dropped the pill into Tenten's mouth; pushing her jaw closed, Sakura tilted Tenten's head back, making her swallow the capsule.
Sakura took a step back and watched with tears in her eyes as the cyanide pill did its work. The burned woman soon went into convulsions, every muscle in her body contracting. Her back arched, her mouth open in a wordless scream that revealed a tongue blackened by fire. Finally, her body relaxed and she slumped down, foam leaking from the corner of her mouth. Sakura checked her pulse, and sighed heavily when she didn't find one. She reached down and pulled the white sheet, which had bunched at the bottom of the pallet, over Tenten's motionless corpse.
Taking a shaky breath, Sakura moved on to the next ninja. She hoped she would never have to do what she just had to do again, but she knew that was a pointless wish.
The enemy sentry didn't even have time to grunt before Naruto had knocked him unconscious and drug him into an alley. Working quickly, Naruto stole the man's clothes and put them on. Next, he cast a light genjutsu on his face, subtly altering his features. The less complex his disguise, the easier it would be for any enemies searching for genjutsu to overlook him. With any luck, he wouldn't be coming face to face with anyone inside the base until his trap was sprung.
At the moment, his main priority was finding this company's commander. Once he took out their leader, any response to his assault would be disorganized. Finding their commander, however, was easier said than done. Like most ninja, this enemy followed the rule subtly. The leader would be dressed the same as all the other soldiers, and his orders would be given over a headset. It was a tactic employed by most ninja villages during large scale conflicts to thwart assassination attempts.
As he made his way into the camp, his eyes flitted casually around, searching for any sign of the enemy leader. A slightly wider berth given to a single individual, for example; or perhaps a predisposition to look at someone every few minutes. These guys were professionals-and none of them gave away the slightest hint as to who was in control. Naruto inwardly cursed, thinking that he had wasted his time infiltrating the enemy camp.
'Don't give up so easily, Naruto.' A deep voice rumbled from the back of his mind.
'You have something in mind, Kurama?' he asked, staying alert for any signs that the enemy had noticed him.
The gravelly voice chuckled. 'For them to be operating with this efficiency, they must have gone through months of training under their leader's command. Maybe even years. Every one of these guys knows what he looks like.'
Naruto was letting his feet carry him around the base at a calm but hurried pace, displaying to anyone watching that he was in a hurry to get somewhere, but he wasn't nervous. The perfect gait for a messenger or guard. 'How exactly do I get one of them to tell me? It's not like they'll give me a description just because I ask nicely and slip them a little money.'
'Just get one by himself and I'll take care of the rest,' Kurama assured him.
The blond sighed, acquiescing to the demon's request. He looked around for a target, and it only took him moments to spot a lone sentry standing on top of a nearby five-story building. The man was distracted, scanning the perimeter of the camp with a pair of binoculars. Naruto climbed the side of the building with a flowing grace built from years of practice. Once he reached the top, he cleared his throat to get the other man's attention.
"Yeah?" the man asked, glancing in his direction.
Naruto held up a small scroll he had retrieved from the pouch on his waist. "I've got a message for Yamada, you him?"
The other man's eyes narrowed. "No, I'm not. And I've never heard of any Yamada. What platoon are you from? You one of General Anterva's men?"
It was clear by his tone that the man was suspicious of Naruto. He decided that his best chance was to act now. His body blurred out of existence as he closed the short distance between them in a fraction of a second. The fingers of his left hand closed over the ninja's mouth, the other clamped down in a vice-like grip on his opponent's left wrist. He pivoted at the waist and slung the man down harshly, pinning him to the ground with a knee to the chest. "Listen to me very carefully," Naruto whispered harshly, "There are only two ways this ends. You tell me what I want to know, and I knock you on the head so you can sleep the next few hours off with nothing more than a headache to show for it." His captive made a muffled attempt to speak, but Naruto pressed on, ignoring him. "The other option is I snap your fucking neck like a piece of balsa wood and find someone else to help me out. Your call."
As Naruto removed his hand from the other man's mouth, the man spat in Naruto's face. "I would sooner die then betray my comrades! Gua-"
His shout was cut off as Naruto covered his mouth again, glancing around to make sure no one had heard. The building was high, and there was a good chance the noise had floated away unnoticed. When no reaction was forthcoming, Naruto shook his head in disappointment. "You really shouldn't act this way. I offered you a way out." The blond closed his eyes.
When he opened them, the once ocean-blue orbs had been colored a shade of blood-red. Kurama pushed a small amount of chakra into his captive's body, filling him with a cold feeling of dread. "Listen to me, and listen to me well, human. I know my host offered you a quick death in the event that you proved uncooperative. I, on the other hand, have no problem with forcing you slowly from this world. Fingernail by fingernail, digit by digit, limb by limb. So you have until the count of three to tell me what I want to know. If you haven't revealed your secrets by then, I'll begin by plucking out one of those pretty green eyes." The Kyuubi paused, his eyes boring into his counterpart's, "Who is the leader of this company, and where is his location?"
"W-What a-a-are you?" the man stammered.
"If you hurt m-me. . . I'll s-scr-scream. And everyone i-in this camp will come up here to help me."
The man looked around desperately, too afraid to call out. "I'm telling y-you! You'll never g-g-get away w-with this!"
"Wait! Wait! I'll tell you what you want to know, just don't hurt me!" Kurama looked down at him expectantly. "His name is Lieutenant Zatrian. He has r-red hair and a s-s-scar over his right eye. He's near the center of the camp, inside of the medical tent. He's dressed a-as an injured soldier."
'Makes sense,' Naruto's voice echoed inside of Kurama's mind, 'Its standard practice for warring villages to hold fire on medical bases.'
Kurama smiled, revealing a pair of abnormally large canine teeth. "Thank you for your cooperation, human. How do your people say it? Pleasant dreams?" Before the man had a chance to question what he meant, the demon slammed the back of his head against the concrete rooftop, knocking him out cold.
As Kurama released his hold on Naruto's body, the blond shook his head to clear it of the demonic possession. "Well, I can't argue with the results, I suppose." He carefully made his way back down the side of the building and made his way towards the medical tents. He held his side, acting the part of an injured soldier to avoid suspicion.
It didn't take him long to reach his destination. The medical area comprised of several tents positioned around one another. He decided that if the enemy leader was trying to avoid attention, he would be hiding in the smallest tent; a ramshackle shelter thrown together with sticks and old cloth. It was obviously meant to house nonessential personnel, so it would make a prime hiding place for their commander.
Naruto pushed open the flap and stepped inside the tent, letting his eyes adjust to the change of light. After a few seconds, he looked around, trying to catch a glimpse of red. There were at least twenty injured men and women inside the small tent, but he didn't see any with red hair. His attention was drawn, however, by a man whose head was wrapped in bandages, only his closed eyes exposed to the air. Naruto stepped forward, silent as a fox, and plucked the clipboard from in front of the man's feet. The documentation claimed that the man had been injured in a blast from an explosion tag. Naruto replaced the clipboard and proceeded to pluck the man on the arm. He surged upward, screaming, but the sound was swiftly cut off by Naruto's hand over his mouth. Naruto moved up and put his knee down on his captive's chest, restraining him and drawing several agonized grunts. With his free hand, Konoha's Hokage tugged the bandages away from the man's face. As the bandages slipped away, blood-red hair could be seem poking through the strips of gauze.
It was now that the red-haired man began to struggle with a strength that gave no doubt to the fact that he was uninjured. His right hand came around and slammed into Naruto's chest, discharging a current of electricity into his torso. Naruto was flung into the side of the tent, collapsing it around them.
By the time Naruto had extricated himself from the wreckage, Zatrian was tearing the remaining bandages from his head. As they fell away, they revealed that he was a strong, middle-aged man with a long crop of red hair and a thick beard. Naruto's eyes flickered around the area, but they were alone for the moment. "I'm assuming you're Zatrian, is that right?"
Zatrian smiled, cracking his neck. "Ya be right in this case," he said, his voice thick with an accent Naruto didn't recognize. "But I wouldn't be goin 'round assumin all da time. It makes an ass out of you and me, ya ken?"
Naruto chuckled while he reached down to pull a three-pronged kunai from his pocket. "I'll keep that in mind." As soon as the words left his mouth, he threw the kunai at Zatrian.
The red-haired man side-stepped the thrown weapon deftly, his grin widening. "Yer gonna have ta try harder then that." His smile faded, however, as Naruto vanished in a flash of yellow.
A moment later, the blond appeared in the air behind his opponent. Pushing his arm forward, Naruto planted his Rasengan squarely between Zatrian's shoulder blades; the spinning ball of chakra shredded his skin and shattered his spinal column as he was driven harshly into the ground below. Naruto let the energy dissipate as his feet touched lightly on the ground, taking a step away from Zatrian's spasming body. Naruto could sense several ninja closing on his position, fast. He knew it was time to spring his trap. He pulled a flare from his jacket and shot it into the sky.
A moment later, explosions filled the air as his shadow clones activated chakra tags all over the enemy encampment. While this was happening, Naruto bit his thumb and performed his summoning jutsu. A huge plume of smoke rose into the air as several large toads appeared in the clearing around him. They scattered, shooting off into different directions to engage the enemy per Naruto's instructions.
Sounds of battle erupted from the north as his shadow clones engaged the enemy's rear flank. His senses were soon being bombarded as his clones began to be destroyed. He caught several flashes of the battlefield before he closed his mind off to the clones.
He looked back at the medical tents behind him and sighed. With deft fingers, he formed several hand signs and slammed his palms down into the dirt. A moment later, thick earthen walls rose around the tents, each one stamped with a medical cross to ensure his people knew not to attack it.
His attention was drawn by clapping. He turned around and was met with the sight of Obito Uchiha leaning on a nearby wall. "You."
Obito grinned, his hands slowing to a stop. "Good job, Naruto. Always the pacifist, even when your village is crumbling around you."
"Commander!" a voice called from the entryway to Shikamaru's tent, drawing his attention.
"What is it, Keneda?" he asked, his voice impatient.
The messenger was grinning ear-to-ear. "The enemy attacking our rear flank has turned away. Another force is drawing their attention, and it sounds like a large one."
Shikamaru's eyes narrowed as he turned back to his map. Kiba was the only commander that had any force sizable enough to make a difference, but he was to the east, not the south. It was possible that he had circled around, but it was unlikely that the Inuzuka would leave the civilians in that sector to be killed. It was also possible that someone else had been able to organize some of the scattered shinobi into a sizable force, but that too wasn't very likely. "Have you noticed anything else? Can you see who they are?"
Keneda shook his head. "No, sir. The men are too far away to see, but we have had several visuals of large frogs attacking the enemy lines."
The dark-haired general felt his heart skip a beat. He knew only one person who could summon frogs. He also knew that the same person was capable of forming his own army in a matter of seconds. Which meant that his plans had to change. Shikamaru brushed past the messenger and went outside. Spotting his Lieutenant, he made a bee-line for the large man. "Chouji!" he called.
Chouji, who had been giving orders to a small group of frightened looking chuunin, glanced up at the sound of his friend's voice. "Yeah, Shikamaru? What is it?"
"Naruto's alive," Shikamaru began, pointing towards the sounds of the battle to the south, "Whatever he's doing back there, he's definitely got their attention. If we want to hurt these bastards, this is gonna be our best chance."
The Akamichi nodded, scratching his chin thoughtfully. His gaze flickered to the lightening horizon and then back to Shikamaru. "If we hit them from the east, we can use the sun to blind them as long as we stay up on the rooftops."
Shikamaru was a little surprised. Chouji wasn't stupid, but strategy wasn't normally his thing. "My thoughts exactly. The problem is, I can't spare many soldiers to help flank them."
Again, Chouji seemed to be thinking, "I should be able to do it with ten good men, so long as I can have three more that can circle around and distract them from the west as well. A total of fourteen, including myself."
Shikamaru contemplated this, then nodded. "Done. But only on one condition."
Reaching out to grasp his friend's shoulder roughly, Shikamaru whispered, "You come back alive, Chouji."
Chouji grinned, "Deal."
Iruka was brought harshly back into consciousness by a cold wave of water rushing over his head. He coughed and spluttered, shaking his head back and forth to clear it of the liquid. He tried to move his hands, but found that they had been strapped down to the chair he was sitting in, completely immobilizing him. He blinked, turning his eyes in every direction, trying to figure out where he was.
"Good morning, sunshine," a voice said from directly above him.
The bound chuunin craned his neck backwards to try and catch a glimpse of the speaker, but couldn't quite reach the proper angle. Letting his neck return to a natural position, he asked, "Who are you? What do you want?"
A man dropped from the ceiling to land in front of him. He was dressed very strangely, wearing light-blue pants and a matching jacket, both of which were made from a material Iruka didn't recognize. A pin on the man's chest had a picture of a pig with words in a language that Iruka could not read. "Names Randall Flagg, chief. Mind if I get yours?"
"Okay, Iruka, I've got a question for ya. Once you answer me, you'll be free to go." While he was speaking, Flagg walked in a slow circle around his captive, his boots clicking on the concrete floor. "I want to know where you're hiding your civilians."
Iruka spat on the floor at the man's feet as he passed in front of him. "I'm not telling you anything."
Flagg closed the distance between them in an instant, his face pressed so close to Iruka's that he could smell the mans sour breath. "I was hoping you would say that," Flagg whispered harshly, his lips curling into a grin that revealed razor sharp teeth.
The grin made Iruka's blood run cold. That simple act made him want to tell the other man everything he knew. No, not a man, a demon. A primal fear was rising in Iruka's heart, and he instinctively knew that Flagg was not mortal. When he spoke, his voice was shaking; only his shinobi training kept him from groveling to the thing before him. "Do your worst, monster." A moment later, Iruka's world exploded into agony.
Sakura stepped out from the makeshift medical facility, shielding her eyes from the harsh glow of the early morning sun. Her whole body ached savagely, a clear sign of chakra exertion. She was only seconds away from full blown exhaustion when the chest wound of her final patient had mercifully closed.
The camp was quiet, but faint sounds of battle could be heard from the distance. She spotted Kiba a few meters away, standing under an awning of a former shop. He was talking to a dark-haired man in a Jounin vest, and Sakura's stomach dropped as she recognized who it was.
Sasuke Uchiha had finally returned to the Leaf after Akatsuki was wiped out. Naruto had protected him from the other villages, claiming that the Uchiha's betrayal had been a plan by Konoha to infiltrate the terrorist organization. Several of the villages were unconvinced, the Hidden Cloud among the chief objectors. Naruto had reasoned with them, promising to 'imprison' the young Uchiha within the village for a minimum of fifteen years, and paying a heavy sum in reparations to placate them. Still, it was obvious that Kumo was almost constantly watching the border of their village, ensuring that Sasuke's imprisonment was enforced.
He was the man who she had once thought she loved. But he had changed so much, having tried to kill her and Naruto multiple times. The thought of him using a technique like chidori on her Naruto made her angry. His return, which she had thought would bring her joy, only made her bitter. He had betrayed them once, and Sakura didn't trust him not to do so again. She had said fewer than a dozen words to the last Uchiha since his return five years ago, and she had pleaded with Naruto not to spend so much time with a man who she still thought of as a traitor. Honestly, she wouldn't be surprised if he was behind the attack now.
She approached them, and Sasuke glanced up at the sound of her footsteps. "Sakura," he greeted, nodding in her direction.
"Hello, Uchiha," Sakura said coolly, not looking him in the eyes. A necessary precaution when talking to a Sharingan wielder, in her opinion."
If Sasuke was put off by her chilly greeting, he didn't show it. "I was bringing Kiba word of the situation at the main gate. Unfortunately, our resistance was crushed. I was forced to retreat, there's nothing protecting us on that flank but a few garrisoned buildings now." Sakura scoffed, drawing the Uchiha's attention. "I'm sorry, is there something you wish to say, Sakura?"
Sakura smiled bitterly, shaking her head. "Not really, it's just not surprising that you ran off and left those men to die."
Kiba cleared his throat, clearly uncomfortable. "Actually, Sasuke brought back a sizable group. The breaches on the east wall were too spread out for his company to cover, but his fifty-six remaining men will be a big help here."
The pink-haired woman blushed, but Sasuke did not chastise her for her assumption. Instead, he turned his attention back to the map in front of him. "You said we reestablished radio contact with outpost B. How are they holding up?"
"The enemy raided them a little while ago, they suffered losses but Shino has the situation under control. No civilian casualties on their side. But the north east has suffered heavy losses, civilian and shinobi alike."
"You said outpost B, right? Did they give any news on Naruto?" Sakura asked, her voice quiet but tinged with worry.
Kiba nodded, "Yeah, they said he went to help Shikamaru. Speaking of him, I told you we could arrange an escort to his location after you patched up my men. How are they?"
"I was able to bring fourteen of the injured ninja back to fighting strength. You still have two that are too injured to fight, but they will live, and they can walk. The burn victim..."
"It was Tenten, I know. Lee brought her here after she triggered a web of incendiary tags." Kiba paused, "Did she pass on?" he asked, his voice low.
Sakura shakily nodded her head. "Yes...I made it as painless as I could. I knew I couldn't save her."
Kiba let her words sink in, and he sighed heavily as he realized what she meant. "I understand. You did the right thing, we couldn't take proper care of her."
"Added to who you had before, and who...Sasuke brought back, how many do you have now?"
The dog ninja seemed to calculate for a moment. "Two-hundred and eighty...give or take a dozen. We're constantly picking up and losing men."
Sakura looked at him, "How many could you spare for a rescue party for the residential district?"
Kiba thought for a minute. "We're in a defensible position. I could spare about eighty. Why should we take the risk though?"
"Because if we didn't have to protect the civilian districts, we could focus on driving out the enemy," Sasuke answered, breaking into the conversation.
"That's exactly it," Sakura confirmed. "We could split them up, get one group to the southern bunker and another to the bunkers at the monument. Once they're safe, we could join Shikamaru's group and send word back to you so you can attack the enemies from this side."
Kiba ran a hand through his hair, grimacing as his muscles protested the action. "It's a big risk."
"But it has the possibility of yielding high rewards," Sasuke said, his fingers drumming on the hilt of his sword. "This is a war, Kiba, we have to get on the offensive if we want to win it."
Kiba sighed, "I guess you're right. Will you two lead a group? I want two people I trust in each party of escorts."
Sakura glanced at Sasuke warily, avoiding his eyes. She hated the idea, but her preferences weren't relevant. Besides, it would be the best way for her to keep an eye on the former traitor. "Okay."
When Sasuke nodded his consent, Kiba spoke again, "Good. I'll go assemble a platoon of thirty-eight for you two, and another forty for the other team. Be ready to leave within the hour. I hope to God that you're right about this."
As the Inuzuka walked away, Sasuke turned to Sakura and began to speak, "Listen, Sakura, I know you don't trust me, but we need to clear the air if we are going to get this mission done."
Sakura crossed her arms over her chest, giving him a withering look. "There's nothing to 'clear the air' about. You betrayed us, end of story. You're a traitor who not only tried to kill me, but your best friend, and your sensei. As far as I'm concerned, there's no coming back from that."
"I messed up, Sakura. Bad. I know that." His hands balled into fists at his side. "I was so concerned with extracting revenge for the family I lost, that I turned on the family that had formed around me." He was shaking now, his voice cracking, and Sakura realized with horror that the man before her was on the brink of tears. "Not a day goes by that I don't regret the path I chose. You're right, there's no coming back from it. No matter how long I stay here, no one will ever really trust me again." He stepped forward and placed a hand on her shoulder, and Sakura could not stop her emerald eyes from meeting his pleading black ones. She braced for a genjutsu, but none came. "I'm not asking you to forgive me, Sakura. I could never ask that of you. I just want you to know how sorry I am for what I did. But, just for this mission, I ask that you trust me. I won't let you down."
Sakura stared back at him for a moment, then broke eye contact. "Fine," she said dryly, stepping away from him. She laughed, the sound almost happy, "I guess I'm losing my mind, because part of me actually believes you. Maybe, after this is all over, we can work this all out."
The corner of Sasuke's mouth lifted in a smile. The first one she'd seen from him since they were young. "I'm glad."
"No promises," Sakura added quickly, turning on her heel and walking away. "I'll meet you by the medical building in an hour. I need to get something to eat."
Sasuke nodded, watching her go. When she was gone, he sat down under the awning and leaned against the wall. He pulled his katana off his belt and unsheathed it. With slow, deliberate motions he began to sharpen the blade with a whetstone.
A.N. That's the end of the first part of ACT I. Part two will be up soon. Brownie points to any reader who can place the character I pulled! Let's just say that he/she'll be a major plot point in the story, and you'll know just how badly shit's about to hit the fan if you recognize them.
Next chapter things are going to be a lot darker. Horrible things are going to be taking place in Konoha. They're at war and there will be plenty of people who are killed or maimed in the process. Take heart, my loyal readers, as if you recall this will be a time-travel(kinda) story, so things aren't going to stay this sad. Bear with me, please!
An interesting note, this story was actually inspired by music. The three biggest inspirations came from Skillet's "Hero", Trading Yesterday's "Shattered", and Red's "Let it Burn". Whenever I need a bump for this story, I listen to them. I recommend checking em out.