Sunlight For Leaves
Chapter IX: The Status of Shadows
Orochimaru sliced the chest containing the scroll in two with the Kusanagi. A thick roll of parchment paper flopped out, undisturbed by the destruction of its vessel. He picked it up carefully and slung it over his shoulder, using a thin cord as a sash to hold it in place.
"Senju Hashirama went to great lengths to seal away the greatest techniques of the world," he explained idly. "As part of the Treaty of Kizo Summit, a great many things that were commonplace during the Era of Warring States were labelled forbidden. The Shadow Clone technique, for instance, and the Shirokajima no Jutsu. As time went on, different jutsu were added, like the Nidaime Mizukage's famous unnamed Suiton Jutsu."
"Your point being that dangerous things need to be kept away from people? Yeah, for once I might have to agree with you," Anko said. "Now drop the scroll!"
"My point? Goodness, if the Kage Bunshin is a kinjutsu, why is it used so commonly within Konoha?" Orochimaru said. "This scroll isn't so difficult to steal, or so I've heard. Didn't the ninja with the worst grades at the Academy get his hands on it?"
"He didn't learn any kinjutsu, just the Kage Bunshin," Anko growled.
"And therein lies the hypocrisy," Orochimaru retaliated. "First it was forbidden, now it's a B-Ranked ninjutsu. What's worse is that sensei dearest apparently didn't place any value on its security. Do you see genin breaking into the Raikage's villa and taking his Scroll of Seals? No, because he has competent guards and a police force."
"He also doesn't have any crazy, murderous, psychotic, evil bastard missing ninja fucking with his village!" Anko shrieked. "Katon: Hono Tsume no Jutsu!"
Two points of fire appeared on the second and third knuckles of each of her hands. They lengthened downwards until they formed flaming spikes, rippling with blue hues. In a few minutes her skin would be black, but that was enough time to kill Orochimaru and take the scroll, possibly becoming a hero in the process.
Yeah, and Naruto was going to be the Godaime Hokage.
With a battle cry that sounded despairingly empty, Anko slashed at Orochimaru's throat. She was out of smoke pellets, which usually accompanied the head-on attacks she preferred, but in this instance it made very little difference. Orochimaru's Kawarimi brought him two metres back, and Anko's fire passed through the smaller half of the chest. It disintegrated on impact, slicing the half into halves. Orochimaru brought the Kusanagi up to her throat.
"Come now, I trained you better than that," he said flatly. "Back straight, bend your front knee slightly more than your back knee, toes parallel, and it's all in the hips."
Swearing amazingly vile names at him, Anko stepped out, blocked the sword with her arm bracers and kicked Orochimaru point-blank in the face. His head snapped backwards with a horrifying crunch, two of his vertebrae cracking from the force of the kick.
Improbably, his unoccupied hand shot up and grabbed her ankle. Orochimaru's head slid back to its mooring, and a slimy sound accompanied his nerve endings and blood vessels reconnecting. His chin dropped to its normal position, and he grinned.
"If only you knew..." he whispered. "The things they hide from you in these villages. The lies they tell you. Who knows, maybe your next Hokage won't be completely inept, however much of a longshot that is."
Anko stabbed at his chest with a conjured claw, but Orochimaru caught her wrist with the crossguard of his sword and threw it away. She stumbled back, nearly falling flat before wrenching her leg away from Orochimaru. Trembling with rage, she patted herself down in search of weapons. Nothing.
"Looking for those?" Orochimaru asked innocently, pointing a short distance away where a pile of metal, plastic and spare clothes lay in a tangled pile. Anko's heart sank; her radio unit was in there too. One-on-one against the bane of her existence, without backup, was just about the worst scenario she could possibly imagine. Preparing herself for the worst, she began devising a strategy to hopefully destroy the scroll, possibly herself, and maybe Orochimaru in the process.
"TAKE THIS, YOU LUNATIC BASTARD!" screamed a familiar voice. Both Anko and Orochimaru turned curiously... An obnoxiously orange blur shot into the room, followed by the more sedate Sakura and Tenten, and decapitated the surprised Orochimaru with a sword.
It was only a few minutes earlier, shortly after Kabuto unleashed his powerful genjutsu, that Tenten awoke to having her shoulders shaken by a panicking Sakura.
"Holy crap, what do we do?" the pink-haired girl bleeted. "The- the jonin are all...and Hokage-sama is dead! What on Earth—?"
Tenten slapped her. In her experience, that was the best way to sober up someone suffering from too much input. As she predicted, Sakura remained stock-still for a few seconds, before shaking her head slightly and collapsing back into her seat.
"Sorry," she apologized. "I guess we should start waking up everyone else."
"Think nothing of it," Tenten said graciously, and together they proceeded to not-so-gently wake up Chouji, Shikamaru and Kiba. Shino and Naruto remained stubbornly unconscious, and Neji's arm still stung enough that the genjutsu didn't much affect him. Together, the six of them regarded Shino and Naruto with puzzlement.
"I don't think we can wake Shino up," Kiba said suddenly. "That genjutsu made all of us fall asleep, but kikaichuu are supposed to be immune to genjutsu."
"I see," Shikamaru mused, following Kiba's line of logic. "It must have triggered some kind of chemical in Shino that made them think it was time to sleep. They have to spend winters inside their hosts, kikaichuu can't tolerate the cold."
"Kikaichuu hibernate?" asked Sakura, surprised.
"Why do you think Aburame never go on missions during December or January?" said Kiba. "It's pretty short, sure, but snow turns Shino into dead weight."
"How do we know he's not just a deep sleeper like Naruto?" asked Chouji.
"Naruto is on a whole other level," Sakura answered. "We were in Wave Country, and it took fifteen minutes of combat for him to wake up, and even then he was still really out of it. Kept asking for his toothbrush for a few minutes before Sasuke punched him in the face. If we can't wake Shino up, then either the genjutsu affected his insects or they think its time to stop coming out."
"If I interpreted that correctly, then there's only one way to wake Naruto up," Neji said loftily. Before any of them could stop him, he wound up and laid into Naruto's slumbering head with a wide haymaker.
"AAAAAAAAAAAAARRRGH!" Naruto yelped, jerking away and cupping his nose. Shikamaru snickered softly at his distress, while Kiba did his best to rein the laughter in. Neji coolly wiped the blood off his fist, and Sakura rushed to wipe his face off with his shirt.
"Jeez, I think you broke his nose," Chouji said idly. "Does anyone know how to set a broken nose?"
"I do," chorused Tenten and Kiba, but Sakura was already on it. Wrestling her teammate to the ground, she knelt on his chest, gripped his nose with the spaces between her fingers, and pulled it back into the proper alignment.
Naruto let out a hilariously girly shriek, followed by a chiding Sakura continuing to hold him still while she bandaged his nose. Only the gravity of the situation kept the rest of them from dissolving into levity at his predicament.
"Seriously, do we have a plan?" Tenten cut in, desperately trying to ignore Sakura's motherly chiding while Naruto whinged about his nose. Kiba and Choji instinctively looked at Shikamaru, who groaned.
"Why me?" he huffed. "Errgh...there have to be some genin from Suna here, and they'll be working to coordinate the attack while the chuunin and jonin fight our shinobi. We should probably try and take them out."
"Got it in one," said a new voice. Sakura and Naruto stopped squabbling in time to see Temari arrive, flanked by Kankuro and Kin Tsuchi. Without adequate time to react, Shikamaru was forced to improvise. Two dozen exploding tags were drawn and thrown in a tight circle at the foreigners' feet.
"Hit the deck!" shouted Kiba.
The resulting bang was enough to rupture the floor of the stadium, with the invaders on the opposite side of a ten-foot-wide gash. It wouldn't stop them for long, but it was enough for the genin to get their asses in gear. Shikamaru assigned Neji to fight Kankuro by himself, while Sakura, Tenten and Choji took Kin and Naruto partnered with himself to take Temari. The blonde kunoichi waited indolently while the Nara finished describing their plan of attack.
With a yell, Naruto vaulted over the gap. Temari's fan swished around, and the sudden gust knocked him back. Kiba and Akamaru sprinted away, being the fastest of the group, looking for any remaining chuunin for backup. Neji skirted the hole on Kankuro's side, and proceeded to harrass Kankuro. Out of her element and confronted by three genin vastly more aggressive than Shikamaru, Kin turned tail and fled with Choji in pursuit.
That left Temari, who was more than enough to take on Sakura, Tenten, and the chakra-empty Shikamaru. Naruto, on the other hand...
"Kuchiyose no Jutsu!" he grunted, summoning Senshi. Tenten did a double-take at the orange slug as three small globs split off and dropped to the floor.
"Eh-heh-NYAH! It's crawling up my leg!" Sakura cried, swatting fruitlessly at Senshi as it advanced up her thigh. Tenten gave it a flat stare for longer than was entirely necessary, and Shikamaru showed no signs of caring, or even noticing as Senshi did the same to them.
"Hmm...so you inherited Tsunade-hime's summoning contract?" Temari said in surprise. "I thought she was in the Land of Lightning right now, but it seems our intelligence was mistaken."
Tenten's eyes grew to the size of saucers. "You...Tsunade-sama's summoning contract..." she whispered in awe.
"Grow up," Sakura snapped, irritably repressing a shiver as Senshi anchored itself to her shoulder. Temari was giving Naruto a second look, taking in his dead-serious expression and the knife in his hand.
"You know about Yondaime Hokage-sama, right?" he said, rolling the kunai between his fingers with ease of practice. "He created the Hiraishin technique, killed two hundred Iwa ninja and nobody dared attack Konoha until the day he died. What the books don't talk about is the Rasengan. It was basically this giant blue ball of chakra that cut through anything: flak jackets, skin, reinforced steel, it could do it all. There's a reason they talk about the Hiraishin but not the Rasengan, and that's 'cause all you need to cut is one of these."
He brandished the knife, balancing it on the tip of a finger before letting it fall again. "Who needs fancy jutsu when you have a little common sense and a blade? I can transfer my chakra to my allies with my summon, and between the four of us we're more than a match for you. You're not wearing a flak jacket, and neither are we. Take your best shot, Temari of Suna."
Temari cracked a grin, flicking her fan open to the second full moon. "Brave words, you psychotic little shit," she laughed. "You're right, big flashy techniques don't work as well as subtle jabs and smokescreens. It's also true that you stand a decent chance of killing me. I should know, I've killed before and I know how easy it is. The difference between us is how good we are. I'm one of the greatest ninja to walk through the gates of Suna. You see this fan? This is the Sakuratessen, wielded by my mother Karura and her mother before her. Do you think you can match me?"
"Let's find out," Naruto said evenly.
There was a tense silence as Temari sidled backwards, away from the gap. Tenten's hand unconsciously went to the scar on her back, where Temari's fan had torn the skin in a rectangle away from her ribs. It was still a little sore, but as her father said, the best ointment was the blood of your enemies. With a whoop of exhilaration, Temari vaulted over the gap and began driving them away with sweeping strokes of her war fan.
"Magen: Jubaku Satsu," Sakura said under her breath, trying to get a lock on Temari's chakra network. The genjutsu slipped right over her, like a fish swimming through a net. It seemed that her situational awareness was helping, but Sakura had trained for long enough to recognize the signs of one who'd trained themselves to ignore genjutsu instinctively. It was a relatively rare skill, but it put her at a significant disadvantage. Only a jonin Kurenai stood a chance of forcing a genjutsu on Temari. She would have to rely on stealth.
Shikamaru was at a bit of a loss. Though his chakra was returning swiftly, injected directly by the slug anchored to his shirt, he only had enough to pin her for a second or two. On the bright side, that was all he needed before Tenten or Naruto put something pointy in her. Temari's fan, open only to the second stage, had just enough maneuverability to confound all of them at once, and with far more ease than in her match with Tenten. He belatedly realized that her strength was fighting multiple opponents, and she had training in real combat tactics that exceeded his.
"Surround her!" he shouted, and Tenten and Naruto took up positions on her far side. Shikamaru stayed to her front, and Sakura hung back behind him. Temari's grin was turning bestial, and she opened her fan to the third tier.
"Kuchiyose no Jutsu!" she cried. Naruto said something that made Sakura want clap her hands over her ears, but it was too late: her demonic little rodent was out. Shikamaru remembered very little about it, on account of its blinding speed, but he did recall that it was faster than any human could ever hope to match, it served Temari unswervingly, and it carried a curved blade as tall as it was long. Accounting for these factors, he assessed the situation and altered the strategy.
"SCATTER!" he shouted, and Naruto blurred to higher ground while Tenten took aim with her shuriken. A gust of wind blew the ill-fated projectiles back to their source, albeit harmlessly, and Kamatari was already rushing at Sakura. Showing a battle acumen not present before her showing at the chuunin exams, she fired off a salvo of kunai that kept it at bay until Shikamaru was able to close in.
"Kagemane no Jutsu," he grunted, bringing the sickle weasel to heel with his shadow. Showing not the least hesitation, Sakura approached and slashed the weasel's neck open. Her kunai stuck in its spine, but it was a deep enough wound to bring Temari's summon to a quick end. Busy with Naruto and Tenten, Temari noticed just as Sakura's hand descended, and by then it was far too late.
"Kamaitachi no Jutsu!" she howled angrily, a whirlwind with cutting force driven before her. Kamaitachi's body disappeared with a puff of smoke, and Sakura leapt out of the way of the tornado.
Tenten was momentarily taken aback by Kiba, who came sprinting back in with a large, clunky plastic radio clamped to his head. He gestured wildly at it as he ran, and Tenten's heart sank. The Suna ninja had radios. They didn't need genin for anything other than...
"They're a distraction..." she whispered. A distraction for what, she didn't know, but they were plenty distracted. Temari shrugged, before leaping acrobatically over a punch from Naruto and landing a bit behind him.
"Naruto-san, now would be an excellent time to use that red chakra," Shikamaru suggested, traces of concern leaking into his voice as Temari resumed schooling Tenten and Sakura. Naruto gave him an incredulous look, then shook his head and looked around quickly.
"Can you take her?" Naruto murmured, taking respite behind the bulwark of the Kagemane no Jutsu. He was running a bit low on chakra, but there was still enough to go around.
Shikamaru considered the angle of the sun and shadows. "I suppose," he said slowly. "I take it you want to do something more productive?"
"Orochimaru dies tonight," Naruto agreed. "I'll leave you two lovebirds together, eh Shika-kun?"
"So troublesome," he muttered. At Naruto's signal, Sakura and Tenten turned and fled in their direction. Temari watched bemusedly as three of her four opponents left like a demon was on their heels, leaving only the lazy one behind. He rolled on the balls of his feet, hands jammed deep in his pockets as he watched her like a hawk.
She jammed her fan into the ground, drawing a line to mark her best estimation of his maximum reach. Then she sat down. Shikamaru almost felt inclined to ask what she was doing, but the spark in her eyes made him close his mouth.
"Don't ruin this," she said, sounding so much like Yoshino that he decided to stay quiet and guard her for the time being.
Not forty metres away, the sick bay for the arena was crowded with medics. There were four fatalities already, including the Sandaime Hokage, and Yakushi Kabuto was in his element. Using Henge to appear as a man in his late thorties, he masqueraded as the head medic in the unit. Over to the right, Uzuki Yuugao's body was covered by a white sheet, while Sarutobi's was bare from the waist up. Kabuto had arranged for the dead man's face to show, hopefully reducing morale.
They admitted shinobi with mostly superficial wounds, though by the time he was done the healing process had been reduced by a factor of three or so. IVs were surreptitiously switched around, leaving people waiting for transfusions with nothing but a saline solution. It would be weeks before they arrived at the peak of health again, and that was time costing Konoha money.
"Sir, shouldn't we autopsy Hokage-sama?" asked one of the junior medics. "He looks fine, but we haven't checked liver temp or done a blood test yet."
"And take time away from treating men with breath in their lungs?" Kabuto snapped, smiling inwardly as the younger woman stuttered an apology and went back to applying triage.
He needed a few moments alone with the corpse before they could be allowed to look at it. The first rule of stealth was covering your tracks. He moved to do just that, preparing a number of unorthodox instruments that would raise the eyebrows of any civilian doctor, when something stopped him.
Uchiha Sasuke's vital signs were plummeting.
Jiraiya hated, hated Hatake Sakumo. The man was a Konoha legend, of the sort who achieved greatness like Orochimaru rather than being born into it like Tsunade. To his shame, Jiraiya had never bested the man in a sparring match, as he'd died before the Toad Sage really hit his stride. Nevertheless, gifted with limitless chakra and regeneration, Sakumo was an opponent to be feared. He even wielded an imitation of the White Light Chakra Saber, though the original was lost on a bloody field somewhere. His erstwhile teammate must have really pulled out all the stops.
Not far away, Kakashi and Asuma were fighting against Kato Dan. Jiraiya was sort of glad he didn't have to fight him himself, as Dan was nearly as unstoppable as Minato himself. His signature technique was similar to the Shintenshin no Jutsu, but solidified his soul just enough to let him kill while protecting himself in the process behind an intangible veil. Naturally, he usually fought behind Tsunade herself, so that his body was safe, but now he just refused to die. Asuma and Kakashi took turns defending themselves against a spirit while desperately stabbing and incinerating the dead body, in hopes that it might go back to being dead.
Come to think of it, this was precisely the sort of thing that Orochimaru got a kick out of. Situations that were impossible to solve, Gordian Knots made of steel, and multiple sadistic choices. Jiraiya suppressed a grunt as Sakumo kicked him in the diaphragm, grateful that he had bothered to keep his taijutsu intact over the years. Not far away, Kurenai Yuuhi was arguing with ANBU Agent Cat and his team, who were apparently the foremost fuuinjutsu experts aside from him. Jiraiya would have told them to hurry the hell up, but Sakumo's lightning-style nintaijutsu was starting to wear him down.
Jiraiya dared not summon his frogs, as one blast of lightning from Sakumo's fingertips might kill them before they had the chance to return themselves, but that didn't mean he was above fighting dirty. Within minutes, seals were strewn over the rooftop with effects ranging from 'paralysis' to 'diarrhoea' to 'heart attack'. The last one's value was dubious, but Jiraiya was as eager as the next guy to see Sakumo loose control of his bowels in the middle of a fight.
Despite being a glorified zombie, Sakumo was still essentially kicking Jiraiya's ass. Reduced to half his normal speed, Sakumo had resorted to flinging lightning bolts like they were going out of style, only closing if he had the chance to finish him off. Jiraiya wondered if Orochimaru had programmed the Hatake to seek out him personally. The single-minded determination with which the towering man attempted to char him to a crisp would have been admirable under any other circumstances.
His musings were interrupted by Naruto, of all people, followed closely by Sakura and Tenten. The three of them were running at speeds that Jiriaya knew they weren't capable of, and Naruto was talking animatedly over his shoulder while the other two nodded. He opened his mouth to ward them away from the fight, but Naruto was making a beeline towards them.
What happened next was almost unbelievable. Tenten threw a small, spherical explosive at Sakumo, who predictably disregarded it as a threat. The resulting bang threw shrapnel into his forearm, in just such a way that it impeded his ability to move. Emotionlessly, Sakumo pulled the largest shard out...
Only for it to turn into a puff of smoke. It reappeared in Sakumo's other hand, and the imitation White Light Chakra Saber was ejected into the air above Sakumo, where a the laughing Naruto caught it mid-leap and continued running. Tenten whistled appreciatively, and then they were off running again.
Jiraiya would later discern that Naruto's Kage Bunshin had used Henge to appear as shrapnel, a trick that wouldn't fool a living shinobi, but could easily dazzle a dead man. This was after Sakumo was sealed in a nearby teakettle, and Dan similarly trapped within Agent Cat's ANBU mask. At the time, however, all he saw was Naruto's absurdly smug grin.
Following the ANBU combing the scene, Naruto deduced that Orochimaru had went north. The black-clothed men were being thorough, leaving no stone unturned, but Naruto had a hunch that the man had gone for one of the only buildings of interest in the far north. Nothing of particular value to a man like the snake sannin would be in the Academy, which left only the Hokage's residence.
With his friends only just behind him, Naruto flipped the odd sword he'd stolen from the Kakashi-looking guy into a backwards grip, followed the sounds of Orochimaru's evil gloating, and followed up his Anko-style entrance with a berserker throat slash.
Orochimaru had never stood a chance.
I apologize for slowing down, it was inevitable. I got one review that flamed me for putting Genma and Hana together, which was a little strange. Ah well, can't please everyone.