Chapter Four: The Effect: Result
Shikamaru was relieved when he found Shino's father as he was scouring the forest around the skirmishes that involved his classmates. Worry had escaped him when he found Shino and Ino who were unconscious, bleeding and probably poisoned by the puppeteer's arsenal but felt assured when Shibi was inoculating his healing bugs and siphoning the poison out of the two of them. Behind them was Asuma, who was looking down at the downed genin as he looked around. He could tell that there were signs of skirmishes all around.
"Let's get back to that foothold with Hinata. We've already set up a perimeter there. We should be expecting Chouji and Kiba any minute." Asuma suggested and the two nodded.
Before they could carry the two unconscious children and the soon to be political prisoner, a tall cloud of smoke had just emerged just in front of them. It wasn't close to them, but it was definitely worrisome. Shikamaru wasted no time to see the thing for itself and jumped higher into the treetops. He stopped when he saw a giant Tanuki with a massive tail standing on all fours above the tall trees that they were standing on.
Seeing this, Asuma cursed to himself and carried Ino to make a beeline at the perimeter.
"Shit, Suna's jinchuuriki is out of control! We have to make a call to Jiraiya-sama and pull those kids out!"
Alarmed, Shikamaru looked at Asuma and asked, "What the hell is a jinchuuriki? What on earth is that thing?"
Asuma dismissed the boy's questions for a moment, "It's none of your concern, Shikamaru. At least not yet, it's better to ask these questions when you've ranked up and able to take this information without blowing things out of proportion."
"It is damn well my concern! If that thing is as dangerous as what you have been expressing and asking for one of the Sannin to help, then that means I've sent some of my comrades to their deaths when they're facing those Suna nin!" Shikamaru explained. Knowing full well that if somehow some of his comrades were killed during this apparently suicidal mission, then it fell on his conscience that he had just marked them for death. Shibi was finally the one to speak and answered Shikamaru calmly.
"We honestly didn't have an idea that he was able to use his powers to this extent, the jinchuuriki is unstable, so we had initially thought that it would be of no concern if he suddenly runs amok. We've had ANBU who are experts in Fuinjutsu trailing him up until now. "
"Shibi! Are you listening to yourself? This kind of information is…" Asuma tried to stop him there but Shibi refuted the son of the Sandaime. Shikamaru had raised an eyebrow at this.
"It is time that he learns the truth, Asuma-san. Konoha isn't bright and sunny as many would portray to believe. People who would think otherwise are deluding themselves."
The patriarch of the Aburame clan then turned to Shikamaru as he placed Shino on his shoulders and stood up, "Jinchuuriki are a special kind of shinobi. They are humans who have a bijuu sealed inside them. Bijuu are massive creatures made entirely of dense chakra constructs, they are highly destructive and volatile. As such, hidden villages have sought after their power for many long years."
The trio began to move towards their makeshift stronghold as Shikamaru dictated them with the correct path as to not spring the traps that he had set up.
"Due to this, Jinchuuriki are considered the ultimate deterrents to war. They are the last line of decision every village falls into. It should be noted, however, that only nine jinchuuriki can exist and these nine humans are placed within the major world super powers that currently stands. Three of the Five Main villages carry two jinchuuriki while Suna and Taki carry one."
"So I'm guessing that there is one in Konoha too, right?" Shikamaru had cut off Shibi from there. Shibi only nodded but added, "There is, though I cannot speak of who that person is. There is a law forbidding us to make a mention of that person. It is considered a high ground for treason should the information leak through a younger age group."
"Why?" Was Shikamaru's question. Asuma and Shibi looked at the other as Asuma answered his student.
"Ah, what the hell, might as well answer your question." Asuma lit up a cigarette and took a long drag before he answered boy.
"Jinchuuriki aren't normally treated well. They are abused, ill-begotten and sometimes would be used as sacrificial pieces." It was then that they arrived at their makeshift stronghold when Hinata heard this part of their conversation.
"But why? I thought Jinchuuriki are the ultimate deterrents for war…"
"That's what's twisted to it, kid. Man fears what he cannot understand. One cannot understand the side effects that a person has to bear to become that sacrifice to carry a bijuu inside them until they die. Jinchuuriki are, for a better term, impractical. They are easily driven mad because of the influence of these beasts sealed inside them. Add to the fact that, any person can become a Jinchuuriki at a given moment. They may be deterrents, but in the eyes of a pragmatic leader, they are expendable pawns as long as another host can be made available."
Armed with this truth, Shikamaru looked at the two adults as they made it in their makeshift operations. His mind began processing the statements of the two adults in front of him as Hinata began to tend to the wounds of Ino and Shino while Asuma did with the captured Suna nin.
"It's Naruto, isn't it?"
Asuma and Shibi remained quiet. But Hinata froze for a moment when she heard the boy's name but nonetheless continued with her work.
"He's the jinchuuriki, he's your deterrent, right? And by Bijuu you meant the Kyuubi, right?" Shikamaru asked once more, the two men didn't answer. Hinata however, was listening to their conversation.
"It all makes perfect sense. Naruto would be the perfect candidate to become the host for the Kyuubi, who attacked the village twelve years ago. He's an orphan, after all. No loving parent could ever subject their child to such an abusive and cruel project. I notice the mistreatment and the prejudice that many of the adults have against him yet some of their thoughts and actions manifest to their children that's why even though they don't know, they're becoming a part of the ostracizing as well." Shikamaru added and suddenly, he could hear small sobs coming from Hinata, but not that she was showing it, she was hiding it when she was bandaging Ino wounds.
'W-What on earth were we fighting for in the first place? If they could subject Naruto-kun to such a cruel environment…' She had realized, that the monster wasn't the host that everyone had been naming. It was the reflection of the mirror that was staring right back at them.
Shikamaru kept silent as he waited for the two to give him answer, Asuma made an excuse and said he would find Chouji and Kiba and disappeared via shunshin while Shibi stayed behind.
"Tell me, Shibi-san, at least answer me this. Would you consider Naruto as some pawn to be sacrificed if things get terrible? Just like that kid from Suna?"
Apparently, all of the adults were in the conspiracy of this. Shibi noted Shikamaru's voice, it was pleading as if he was trying to find some form of reassurance. Because if they could treat Naruto as dispensable tool, then what were their chances of being the same?
In essentiality, they were nothing more than cannon fodder.
"There is one person who I could think of that wouldn't be above using such means. The Sandaime has kept him at bay, but it may not be for long if he would not survive this crisis."
The two shinobi turned to the voice of the girl that finished patching up her comrades. Hinata was looking intently at them. Eyes filled with sorrow.
"The man's name is Danzo. And he wouldn't stop until he has the necessary pieces in his hand to put control over the village. He is Sandaime-sama's rival for the seat of Hokage and former leader of a defunct ANBU branch codenamed 'Ne'."
A chill went up Shikamaru's spine. If by chance that the Sandaime does die and the two remaining members of the Sannin refused the title, which was most likely, then the best candidate to take the position would be this Danzo person.
If that happened, then most likely, they would be subjected to the same treatment.
The ground shook and a force of a strong hurricane escaped through the forest. Hinata, Shikamaru and Shibi braced themselves as they looked out from their hollow tree.
Out there, the Ichibi no Shukaku was facing off with what seemed to be a giant toad. It wasn't really that near, but they could hear the loud gigantic voices that came with them.
"It must be Jiraiya-sama." Shibi noted until the loud booming voice of the giant toad was heard to their side of the forest.
"Fine then, I accept you as my underling, Uzumaki Naruto!"
Shikamaru and Hinata looked gobsmacked while Shibi had raised an eyebrow at this.
Just what kind of training did Naruto underwent to have this many bag of tricks in his sleeve?
When Naruto saw the giant racoon-dog staring down at him with an amused expression, he knew he was in deep shit.
He also knew that it takes two giant animals to do the giant tango.
Biting his lip, Naruto drew blood and whisked it at his left palm. With five hand signs of boar, dog, bird, monkey and ram, the boy slammed his left hand and shouted at the top of his lungs.
"KUCHIYOSE NO JUTSU!"
He already knew who was going to appear in that giant cloud of smoke. Being infused with the chakra of the Kyuubi, he knew the gigantic toad summon that could help him in this case.
"What in all that is sagely is this?"
The toad boss pointed to the titanic creature in front of him. Not that he was asking what the creature was in front of him, he already knew that it was the Ichibi no Shukaku, but what he wanted to know was why is Naruto facing off against one of the most dreaded creatures to ever walk this planet?
He wouldn't get his answer though as Shukaku raised its massive forearms and began swiping at Gamabunta who ducked drew his Tanto to block the bijuu's assault.
"FUN! THIS IS FUN! YOU ENTERTAIN ME GREATLY, UZUMAKI NARUTO!"
"FUCK YOU!" he replied. It was Naruto's best comeback. Not that he had to, but it felt right tossing it in there against that asshole.
He turned to Gamabunta and said to the Toad summon, "Sorry about this boss, but I need your help! I can't let that thing get near Konoha. I need to stop him here and now before he does any more damage!"
"It's easier said than done, brat! We're fighting one of the bijuu here and I'm doing most of the dirty work, mind you!"
"Hey! That fucker was one hell of a pain in the ass when I fought him a while ago! Crazy bastard broke my ribs!" Naruto said this as he pointed to the spot where there was a small tear in his black shirt.
"Oh boo hoo, Did the widdle bwat got hut on pwaying wit the fluffy animal?"
"AHHH! Listen up, boss! Help me out here! Look at that guy, he looks like he's about to take a shit on my village! I can't let him get past here! We have to stop him here!"
Bunta was going to refute that Jiraiya had a better chance of stopping this monster here, but then this guy was getting really aggressive and he was not going to stop with it too.
The giant toad swung his equally giant knife sideways to fend of Shukaku with a swipe, the beast was halted for a second when the toad boss lunged and decided to tear one of limbs apart with his knife. Said blade pierced through but Gamabunta had a hard time cutting apart the said appendage.
When he did so, Gamabunta jumped back when Shukaku swiped with its other arm. The toad chief clicked his tongue in disappointment as he said.
"Damn that arm, it's too thick to make a clean cut."
"Just what is that thing, anyway?" Naruto asked and the toad chief answered as it let out a smoke from its pipe.
"The Ichibi no Shukaku. He's a bijuu who has control over sand and wind. You'll notice as a trademark for the host of Shukaku is that many of its jailors went insane from insomnia. The rings around their eyes indicate the massive sleep deprivation that they suffer because of Shukaku trying to take over."
Naruto recalled the rings surrounding Gaara's eyes. It looked somewhat like makeup of course, until he realized just what they actually were.
The host of the Ichibi slowly appeared on top of the beast's head and looked at Naruto quickly took attention to the boy having neither irises nor pupils as he grinned widely at him.
"To think that you can even keep up with me in this form… You truly are an interesting person." The red head said in monotone as he placed his hands together in the seal of the ram.
"Tanuki Neiri no Jutsu (False sleeping technique)!"
Silence remained, and a pause of anticipation and dread filled the air. Gamabunta cursed as he readied himself as well as Naruto.
"Blast it all to hell! That brat actually did it!"
Inside Naruto, the Kyuubi looked on in interest as it chuckled. The link that he obtained from leaking his chakra to Naruto made him see things for himself, and what he saw clearly made him feel amused. The Kyuubi spoke to Naruto with this, making a large toothy grin.
"Should you wish to end this fight now, then rely on me more, brat."
A powerful cry was heard…
"Do not think of yourself highly, brat. Against a bijuu, you are insignificant."
Then its eyes glowed…
'I'll get you out if you tell me your name.'
A laugh, more deranged and crazier than the last…
'Then tough luck, fur ball!'
"I'M OUT, I'M FINALLY OUT! YAAAAAAHOOOOOO!" Shukaku shouted and raised its head to the sky, feeling absolutely thrilled at the sense of freedom it now obtained. Its attention then turned to the giant toad and the blonde sitting on top of its head as it smiled. Shukaku could sense that asshole Kurama being sealed within that blonde child and it laughed with glee. Oh he was going to love crushing that bug inside to nothing but paste.
"YOU! I'M GOING TO ENJOY KILLING YOU!"
"Of all the times I have to be summoned and I have to face a bijuu again!" Gamabunta ranted as it jumped when the tailed beast swung its mighty tail at the toad chief.
Dust and debris scattered and trees uprooted from the sheer force of the beast. It howled in excitement as it stretched its arm made of sand and Gamabunta ducked while lunging at the beast before jumping up once again before landing on the other side.
"And by a stupid kid like you! We haven't even done Sakazuki yet!"
Annoyed by all the bitching and moaning, Naruto finally snapped. He technically didn't have good relationships with gigantic monsters and summons of terrible destruction.
"I'LL GET YOU THE BEST DAMN SAKE IN THIS PLANET! WE'LL BE DRINKING SO MUCH THAT WE WON'T EVEN GET TO REMEMBER THE NEXT WEEK! I'LL EVEN LEAVE AN EXTRA OR TWO! JUST KEEP THAT CREEP FROM GETTING ANYWHERE NEAR MY VILLAGE OR MY FRIENDS! CRIPES AND I'M SUPPOSED TO BE THE 'BRAT'!"
Gamabunta landed on the ground, skidding as he did so, causing a shockwave disturbing the nearby foliage. It was then that Shikamaru, Hinata and the rest of the team had heard Gamabunta said in declaration.
"Fine then, I accept you as my underling, Uzumaki Naruto!"
And that, was that.
Gamabunta once more lunged at the giant Tanuki. The toad chief stepped aside as it went for its towering knife and gripped it in reverse and sideways as he turned to face Shukaku. The beast extended its remaining arm once more as it raced towards the giant toad and his summoner. The toad chief was prepared this time however, and gripped his knife the same as he would a sword with both hands and winding back as if it was a baseball bat.
Gamabunta then pumped chakra as much as he could to the blade and it glowed an ethereal blue as he slashed it at the oncoming sand appendage. The cut was much cleaner this time, and sand seemed to pour down from where the blade made the long cut. Shukaku disengaged that part of the sand and reformed its left hand and raised it high above its head. Shukaku inhaled deeply, air gathering inside it and then smashing its underbelly with its huge right hand while shouting.
"Futon: Renkuudan (Wind Release: Air Drilling Bullet)!"
Gamabunta jumped into the air and Naruto could see the wind bullet sailing past below them and exploding in a powerful gust of force that tore through a small mountain and exploding.
"Shit!" Naruto cursed when he saw this and immediately performed the hand seals to his only elemental jutsu, the Tenrin.
The winds howled as it encircled Naruto's forearm. Gamabunta landed on the ground and heard the wind howling at the back of his head. That meant that Naruto was up to something. Trusting his subordinate, Gamabunta sheathed the blade at his waist and prepared for a jump once more when Shukaku turned its body back towards the toad chief.
Gamabunta then performed a single hand seal as he leaped forward, a powerful air bullet came at him. The toad chief shouted.
"Suiton: Teppodama (Water Release: Gun Bullet)!"
Wind and water crashed in on each other, and fell to the earth hard. It felt like a powerful storm all around.
Sasuke and Sakura had to brace themselves from the force of the powerful winds trying to throw them away.
As Sasuke held on to a branch for dear life, Sakura was pulling him with all her might clinging to the branches with chakra.
'This is what a real summon battle feels like. It's like those Kaiju movies I used to watch.' Sasuke thought, all that environmental destruction around him made him feel rather small.
Another question littered in his head as he watched the toad jumped into the air once more, only this time, the Shukaku noticed his pattern and gave a faint on the first wind bullet and then looking up and began shooting down at the giant toad in mid-air.
'How strong have you gotten, Naruto?'
Up above in the air, three bursts of what sounded like cannons can be heard. Gamabunta was already on it before Naruto could shout, "Below us!"
Two huge globes of water came from Gamabunta, clashing with the air bullet. Wind and water scattered once more and rain began to fall. At this stage, Naruto had suddenly dashed down towards the air space that wind and water crashed on each other.
A word was all he needed to know to act. If he knew he could take advantage of something, then he would damn well use it. Besides, the name of the technique was quite an obvious give away, was it not?
Naruto dived into danger, head first. As he could feel the surge of the strong wind approaching ever closer, he held out his right hand, maxing out the power of the Tenrin's spin as the winds howled louder and louder.
Then, out of the water dew and the rapid pushing of the wind, the air bullet came at him down below. At an angle both he and Gamabunta couldn't dodge.
Naruto didn't care though, he didn't need to. There was something in this technique that made him so cocksure. As the winds danced around his face he couldn't help but smirk as the bullet hit him full force.
"Futon: Ura Tenrin Kazahana (Wind Release: Heavenly Wheel Windmill Flower Reversal)"
He suddenly found himself slowly descending towards the ground as he was aiming a fist at the Shukaku before punching the air.
A straight line of wind emerged from his fist, more like a jet stream as it went straight to Shukaku who simply jumped back and shouted.
"Like that will hit me!"
The jet stream then hit the ground below and exploded upwards in smoke and debris.
With the force of the recoil, Naruto was sent backwards in the air. Fortunately, Gamabunta had caught him there.
Naruto grinned as he jumped to Gamabunta's head, "Ditto."
"This isn't going well. The more time he has out of his container, the more he gets back his powers. We need to put a stop to the Shukaku and wake up the brat."
"Exactly how are we going to do that?" Naruto asked as he tried to fend off Shukaku with another jet stream of wind coming from his fists.
"Punch the container hard enough to knock him awake. But in order to do get close enough, we'd need to stop the Shukaku from moving. So I need something to hold him down with Henge no Jutsu. It'll be like a Combi Henge (combination transformation)."
"Wait, I have a better idea!" Naruto suddenly had a plan going through his head. If this works, Gaara would be nothing but a sitting duck and he could end this fight without getting anymore destruction done.
Inside the village:
Jiraiya had just dealt with the remaining snake summons that was terrorizing the village. He could see some of the enemy shinobi retreating when the snakes fell, yet some still had the guts to charge right at him. Gamahiro would simply swat them away like they were mere pests.
Jiraiya could feel and hear the earth tremble for a few seconds. He could see the birds from the trees outside the village at the northern side suddenly flocking away. A frown escapes his lips, he knew something was up.
Grabbing his telescope, Jiraiya zoomed in on what looked like a silhouette of Gamabunta and the Ichibi squaring off in the distance. Jiraiya suddenly clicked his tongue, there was only one other summoner in Konoha who has a contract with toads.
The toad sage jumped from Gamahiro's head and landed on the nearest roof.
"Gamahiro! I'm leaving this to you! The reinforcements should be arriving any second! I just need to get to the northern gate as soon as possible!"
With that, Jiraiya disappeared in a plume of smoke.
'Hold on, kid…'
Back with Naruto and Gamabunta:
`Gamabunta thought that Naruto's ploy was downright dangerous, a gambit with no guarantees, it was simple enough, but the problem was the certainty. Sure, no plan ever survives first contact, but this plan sounds a little too risky with what they know.
"I'm ready, boss!" Naruto shouted as he rested comfortably on the toad chief's hand.
Up on his head, another Naruto was gathering chakra and began thinking of something that involved fangs and claws.
"You know there's a good chance that you might die from this, right?"
The blonde at his left hand grinned at him, his jutsu still active and the winds swirling around him. He dug deeper into himself and pulled out the Kyuubi's chakra causing another sway of the red energy to surround him like a cloak.
"No chance… Because I can make anything possible, that's why."
Gamabunta couldn't help but grin at the boy's cocky attitude. It was full of boasts, but somehow, he found himself believing in the boy.
"One fastball special, coming right up!"
In an instant, Naruto was travelling near at the speed of sound as he was sent sailing towards Shukaku. Gamabunta was then surrounded in a cloud of smoke and out came a lunging Nine-tailed fox that was just as big as Shukaku.
Naruto could feel the wind as he rushed through the air like a bullet, or faster than one. He couldn't tell, he could only tell how everything was slightly starting to blur. A fraction of a second later, the Ichibi had just dodged him with a duck. Thinking quickly, Naruto let out two sets of jet stream powered punch above him that changed the trajectory of his course.
He had landed, but he was at the upper base of his tail.
"WHAT THE HELL?" The Shukaku shouted, and soon its own body began to act against this foreign invasion that was beginning to scale at his back, but he couldn't react in time, when a nine-tailed fox slammed onto him with a swish of its long orange tails.
"GAH!" Momentarily distracted, Naruto made a bee line towards the top, ducking weaving and jumping as any form of sand tried to jump out at him. He'd been successful so far, what with the Shukaku being kept busy by the Kyuubi construct, Shukaku's sand defences were down, meaning he could scale this monstrosity, get close to Gaara and punch the ever living daylights out of him.
The pseudo-bijuu began clawing away at Shukaku who was cursing up a storm against him.
"KURAMA YOU SICK BASTARD! WHEN I GET MY HANDS ON YOU…" Another volley of wind bullets but the giant fox was too fast to be hit.
"STAY STILL GODDAMNIT!"
With the enhancements of Tenrin and the Kyuubi's chakra pumping in his system, Naruto had the speed to evenly match against Rock Lee in terms of a sprint. He had managed to every hindrance to him so far and blazingly closed in on Gaara's position at the top of Shukaku's head.
A claw overshadowed him, but was stopped when the transformed toad chief held the giant claw in place with both of his hands as Naruto jumped, reeled his fist back and aimed at Gaara's face.
"Wake the hell up!"
Atop the chuunin exam stadium:
Orochimaru had looked at the Sandaime in the eye, his former teacher, mentor, and peer. He could see the older man's tiredness and weary composure. The man was breathing ragged. He looked half-dead with those features of his, yet he still stands.
"I commend your steadfast and stubborn attitude sensei. Someone who is as old as you still stands against your predecessors. I cannot imagine what it feels like to be in your position right now."
Orochimaru sneered as he looked at his old sensei. Hiruzen merely stood there, on guard and ready for whatever attack was to be thrown at him.
"No, that you can't. You do not understand what it means to be Hokage, Orochimaru. For that, you are not qualified to hold the mantle."
Orochimaru gave a small chuckle, amused with his former teacher's assumptions.
"Who said I even wanted the position, sensei? Do not delude yourself."
Sarutobi merely scoffed at the idea.
"No, Orochimaru, it is you who believes in those false assumptions. I am not one to see and believe falsehoods as my reality. Not me, no, I can tell for a man like me, I deserve nothing great. But you deserve worse."
The Shodaime began to move, Hiruzen could only defend.
"Konoha does not bend to tyrants nor shall it ever serve one. Our will is not meant to fade but grow strong. For someone who thinks that we will simply fall have only themselves to lose against my village."
He parried the second Hokage with Enma's staff, the Nidaime retaliated and adjusted his footing to not fall and instead used that momentum to crouch effectively and give the Sandaime a sweeping kick to catch him off balance.
The professor simply used Enma as a base and had effectively stopped the Nidaime's progress and kicked his predecessor right in the chest and sending him flying.
"Though I am Hokage, my fire burns little compared to the one who shall inherit my will! And that one, who will carry it out, will be the person whose will is strongest, whose fire burns brightest!"
To where Shukaku and Kyuubi were facing off, Naruto had gotten close to the jinchuuriki of the one tail and delivered a punch that shook heaven and earth itself.
"To you, Orochimaru, you will fail! For this village, the very shinobi that you've set out to vanquish, they will never fall to the likes of you! Some of them may wither and die, but they will feed the new leaves to fan their flames and become the light that shines upon the village!"
Orochimaru was growing irate at the old man as he drew Kusanagi and was about to finish off Sarutobi when the old kage performed a jutsu he had never seen before.
"Now you shall see my will and witness a jutsu that not even you could ever know! Fuinjutsu: Shiki Fuujin (Sealing Arts: Dead Demon Consuming Seal)!"
To the old man's back, he saw a deathly white apparition. Beads surrounded its right arm, while a knife remained in its mouth. It's perpetual grin sneered at them as its left hand went for the bound soul that was at its front.
"Now let us partake in the feast for the Shinigami, my foolish apprentice!"
Outside the walls of Konoha:
Naruto had jumped like he never jumped before as he reeled in his fist back, putting in it all the weight he could muster as he got close to his target.
Everything seemed to slow down for him at that moment as he got close to Gaara. He could vividly see his punch flying straight to his target's cheek. He could feel Tenrin powering down after using it so excessively, he could feel and hear his own heartbeat erratically pumping as he slowly got closer and closer.
Images of his own childhood flashing before his eyes, from the day that he could remember, he could tell and already experience what it was like having no one around you. He had no guidance, no one to tell him what was right and what was wrong, he had no one to share his sadness. He could sympathize with Gaara because he felt the same pain of having no one, the thought of abandonment, betrayal, and desolation. As his fist sailed towards Gaara, a question formed in his head.
'Would I… Have been no different than him if I were in his place?'
Then, the answer came to him as an epiphany.
Yes, it was why Gaara had to be stopped.
"Bastard…" Naruto cursed. He had indeed managed to wake Gaara up. The boy was confused at the sudden jolt to wakefulness. The Shukaku trashed about before going back to the recesses of his mind.
"NO! NOOOO! JUST WHEN I FINALLY HAD MY FREEDOM!"
Gaara's world stopped spinning after a few seconds and his vision cleared with Naruto standing before him with his right hand clenched. Naruto was frowning as he once more dashed at Gaara who made a hand seal to restrain Naruto who swatted the sand away with Kyuubi's chakra.
For the first time in his life Gaara could feel the emotion that plagued his victims right before a kill. This is fear. And he felt that fear right now as Naruto walked over to him and deflected any sand that could entrap him. The Kyuubi's chakra guarding him as if it were Gaara's sand, his power simply could not match up to this boy whose titan appeared far more superior to his.
When Naruto got within an arm's reach, he quickly grabbed Gaara by the collar and red chakra fluctuated all around him, protecting him from the sand.
"This madness…" Naruto reeled his head back and hit Gaara's own head with his.
"… Ends now!"
Then, a silent pause made itself known throughout them. The pseudo-Kyuubi's transformation ended and Gamabunta smirked as the sand construct, slowly disintegrated and the red chakra stopped flowing.
'He had every possible advantage yet he still chose to end the fight with that head-butt. Not really graceful but he did everything he could to stop the brat. Uzumaki Naruto, you're one strange little human. I'm looking forward to seeing you grow.'
With that, Gamabunta dispelled himself and disappeared in a cloud of smoke. Naruto and Gaara were sent crashing on opposite sides due to the force on the forest floor. Both of them could hardly stand up.
Naruto stood up first, breathing heavily, he couldn't exactly hide the fatigue that was weighing him down anymore and by Gaara's disposition, he was tired as well.
'Even after all that, he could still stand up and not even back down. This guy is unreal.' Naruto thought in hidden awe as both of them slowly walked toward each other, fists clenched.
This wasn't over.
No more chakra.
No more tailed beasts.
No more jutsu.
All this, as it would be, it would be nothing more than a brawl.
With Shikamaru and Hinata:
When Shikamaru saw the sand construct disintegrate, he felt relief wash over him. A breath that he could tell that lasted for several minutes escaped him as the giant monster fight finally ended. Hinata had stepped out, her face told Shikamaru that she was relieved as well but concern was still there.
He could tell that Hinata was still worried for Naruto.
So he told Hinata what the only sensible thing he could do.
"Can you check for any enemy activity within a four kilometre radius, Hinata?"
The girl nodded and did so with her Byakugan, when she shook her head and reported Shibi and Asuma's whereabouts after retrieving Chouji, Kiba and the sand Kunoichi, he told the young heiress.
"Then get to Naruto. We need someone who can extract him there. I'll be the one taking watch on our makeshift base."
Hinata nodded and began to make her way towards the sight were the summoned toad had disappeared from, to where Naruto was most likely in.
'You were right dad, women are troublesome.'
He turned back towards his unconscious comrades and then set his sights on his village. He could see smoke and fire, but he could tell that the invasion was most likely over, somewhere in his gut told him that this would be just the beginning.
Someone then made their presence known to him and Shikamaru looked down, he could see Sasuke and Sakura, with the former being carried by the latter who had black marks pasted all over his body. Shikamaru jumped down and eyed the two warily before he asked.
"So, care to tell me what the hell just happened back there?" Shikamaru asked, both of Naruto's teammates merely looked down as they tried to erase the thought of Naruto almost being crushed by that freak from Suna. When Naruto had pushed Gaara back, Sakura had to retreat. With Sasuke too exhausted to do anymore and her being as useless as she was,
"It was bloody, too chaotic. Naruto almost died because of me." Sakura answered Shikamaru while Sasuke was gritting his teeth.
"But he's the one that stood and defeated that freak from the desert right? How did that happen?" Shikamaru asked, though he already knew the answer, it wouldn't be much to know a little about Naruto's abilities.
Sakura couldn't answer as the mere thought brought back something that traumatized her and something that her mind would plastered with for a long time.
"Sasuke?" Shikamaru turned to Sasuke who just clicked his tongue and turned his head away. Probably ashamed of what had happened to him and ashamed that he couldn't beat Gaara while Naruto matched him blow for blow.
"Well if you're not going to answer, then it's fine. But I need you guys inside there while I'll brief you in on what's been happening." Shikamaru said as he pointed to the side of the hollow tree to let Sasuke rest for a moment.
Once inside, Shikamaru looked sideways and hold his index finger up close to his lip gesturing for them to remain quiet. Sakura had to wonder, Shikamaru looked vigilant for a moment there.
"Shibi-san and Asuma-sensei won't be here for another few more minutes so it's best that I tell you now."
Sakura and Sasuke looked at each other then looked at Shikamaru with a questioning face and the Nara simply nodded as he looked serious.
"I don't trust any of the adults right now after what happened. We were sent to this mission way over our heads. This wasn't supposed to happen. That freak from Suna was a jinchuuriki, a rare kind of super soldier that villages have to act as a deterrent for war. Naruto was lucky that he managed to beat that kid down. But that's a whole another story. For now, all I can say is we have to be careful."
Sakura looked distraught once more while Sasuke continued to think about what just happened earlier.
'How strong and how far have you gotten, Naruto?'
This question lingered in his mind as they retreated when Naruto had pushed Gaara away from them.
His thoughts were cut off when Shikamaru looked at him and spoke.
"What?" He asked, his voice filled with annoyance.
"It's not my place to say this but its better you hear this now. Naruto has lived a life full of secrets, lies and loneliness so don't even try to find reason to be jealous. What you know right now is only half compared to what I got from Asuma-sensei and the others. Naruto got strong in his own way. You should be able to do something on your own too."
Sasuke merely clicked his tongue and looked away. Shikamaru didn't know what he was talking about.
Shikamaru looked at Sasuke and analysed him. He knew for a fact that Sasuke wanted power avenge his family and subconsciously used Naruto as his measuring stick in their batch. But compared to many of them, Naruto was in a completely different situation compared to them, compared to even Sasuke. That was why he said what he said to the Uchiha.
Sakura looked at the two as she finally broke the tension, "Shikamaru, what have you learned from Asuma-sensei, anyway?"
"That there's a man in the higher-ups of Konoha who's willing to discard shinobi as pawns and that someone like you or Naruto are expendable pawns."
Sakura had a grim reminder as she thought about this, 'just like Haku and Zabuza.'
"Thankfully there are people within who can delay him. But if Hokage-sama dies, they could only stall for time until a new Hokage is chosen. But I'm not willing to trust the adults yet after what I learned."
Sakura then asked Shikamaru, "What did you learn, Shikamaru?"
Shikamaru was silent for a moment as he looked on the general direction of the village and towards the area where Naruto and Gaara had fallen in to a little while ago before he finally answered.
"When this whole thing blows over, I might tell you. But I recommend having Naruto here to clear things up. I can't be the one to answer your questions."
"Is Naruto in on this?" She asked but Shikamaru shook his head with a no.
"Naruto is just a victim here. But everything revolves around him. And it depends on what happens from here on out. So I'm asking you to be patient. If Naruto refuses to answer you then it's because he either doesn't trust you or he's afraid of what might happen. I hope that you understand my position in this."
It wouldn't hurt to ask Naruto anyway, right?
Every step he made he felt the earth beneath his feet shatter, his legs shook in pure agony and fatigue, every single part of his body wanted relief, he was too tired and too empty to go on. Now he was just running on fumes and his opponent seemed to be under the same condition as well. They were in no condition to battle, yet like possessed men with a mission, both of them continued to fight. Whoever falls down will win and he wasn't going down first, not until his cold dead body drops to the ground.
When they got within range, Naruto and Gaara reeled their fists back at the same exact time, left and right foot slid up front as both of them came within blowing range and both were swinging their right fists straight at their faces. Now whoever delivers the first punch would have the advantage.
Both of them screamed and swung at their most primal form and neither seemed to be stopping.
Gaara's world shook anew as Naruto was the first to connect, but the blonde couldn't connect as well, as he was suddenly hit with Gaara's own fist smashing his mouth and sending him reeling back while he had just punched Gaara's cheek.
Recovering at the same time, Gaara was the first to follow through with a punch but Naruto ducked and reeled his left arm back and swung it upwards delivering an uppercut on Gaara's abdomen pushing air out of his lungs and bowed involuntarily. The redhead had no time to retaliate when Naruto grabbed his shoulders and promptly kneed him to the face, blood had splattered once more when Naruto broke Gaara's nose. The red head pushed the blonde away and retaliated in kind when he punched the blond in the gut sending him reeling back a few steps as air escaped his lungs and was kicked at the side of his face sending him flying and hitting a tree on his back.
Naruto flinched from the attack as he tried to get up as Gaara was using his hands holding on to the upper part of his knees for support. Both were breathing heavily. But they tried to fight on.
Both of them, so different yet so similar at the same time, and both refused the very notion of defeat.
"You will not… deny my existence!" Gaara shouted as he approached the blonde, wearily the blonde stood up, his back against a tree, leaning on for support but he looked at Gaara with an expression that told a thousand words.
"I won't let you… Kill anyone else… Even though it was short… They're important to me… So I… I'm going to stop you anyway I can!"
Images of his friends circled in his mind and he found himself pushing towards Gaara one more time, his right hand reeled back as he charged at Gaara now only driven by emotion and the sight of victory within his eyes.
With a mighty shout, both jinchuuriki crossed fists for one final time.
And only one was hit.
Within the final inch in that small fraction of space and time, Naruto had leaned forward as Gaara's fist brushed to the side of his cheek, tearing skin and spilling blood and adrenalin rushed to him one final time as his arm crossed below Gaara's and headed straight towards the back of his chin, Naruto, slowly losing his grip, pushed as hard as he could as much as he could and shouted at the very bottom of his lungs as he connected and hoped to end this fight while Gaara was sent flying and skidding on his back on the ground before rolling and stopping dead in his tracks.
Gaara remained motionless but his consciousness couldn't waver. He looked over to the blonde who was slowly walking towards him, before falling on his knees and then hitting the ground face first. He watched in fear as Naruto crawled his way towards him, kunai in hand, hell bent on ending this fight sooner than later.
"D-Don't come any closer!"
Gaara finally shouted as Naruto looked at him, eyes burning with determination and sorrow.
"The first time I met someone who truly did understand me and you turning out the way you did, watching you, I couldn't help but think that I could've turned out the same way because I understood you. I know how much it hurts, with having no one to be there for you to be so alone that the pain crushes you from the inside."
Gaara's eyes widened as he saw Naruto's right eye had a small tear falling.
"I understand you so well that it hurts. It hurts me just as much!"
This time, Naruto used his last kunai and pierced the ground with it as he tried to pull himself up.
"But something happened, I was saved. By the person whose parents were killed by the Kyuubi. In a story so ironic, he saved me from becoming the same monster as you did and by now, I have people who I consider more important than anything in this world and I would give everything just to keep them safe, even if it means finishing you off."
Hinata had jumped down from the trees and saw her crush down on the ground using his kunai as the only support he has and using it to crawl forward. Gaara had remained motionless as he stared at the blonde.
"It's over now, you've done enough."
Hinata shook her head as she kneeled down beside the blonde and grabbed his hands with the kunai with her own.
"You have to stop, he's beaten, and you had won."
He looked over to Gaara who was simply staring upwards, not unconscious, but extremely tired.
She had seen how brutal their fight was with her Byakugan, how primal Naruto and Gaara had been and how dangerously low both their chakras were. It was a miracle that both of them remained conscious. And she couldn't help but feel sad when she heard Naruto spoke and connected with Gaara the way no one else would.
Naruto understood him.
"The others… Are they okay?" Naruto asked. Hinata looked on in surprise and slight anger.
Why couldn't he think of himself just for once? He almost died today, twice! But her anger quickly dissipated as she saw Asuma and Shibi arriving at the scene, Temari in handcuffs, Chouji on Asuma's shoulders along with Kiba and Akamaru not far behind.
"Shikamaru and Hinata here built a small foothold to gather the injured and give them first aid before they journey back to the hospital. By now, the invasion is dying down and the offspring of the Kazekage are within Konoha's custody."
Temari looked down as she saw Gaara who was only looking up.
Hinata helped Naruto up and slung him on her shoulders, she could hear the blonde mutter, "Thank you… And thank goodness…"
Hinata blushed at the proximity of her crush, but personal matters aside, Naruto needed all the help that he could get right now. And she will be willing to do so, starting now.
Naruto could feel the cold embrace of sleep inviting him and he gladly obliged to succumb to it.
Shibi picked up Gaara whose head lay low from his overwhelming fatigue. But Gaara had noticed his sister, and a question came to him.
"Temari… Where is Kankuro?"
Temari looked down while answering her younger brother, "He's been captured."
Silence between the two of them and then Gaara spoke, "I see…"
Another pregnant pause, but this time, shorter than the last, "I'm sorry, Temari, for everything."
Temari couldn't help but be surprised by Gaara's words. Instead, she could only nod at it and looked on at the forest, perhaps awaiting a grim fate.
As Naruto slept, within him, he saw himself back at the cage of his prisoner, a grin forming on his face as he looked at the fox.
"So, Kurama huh?"
To be continued…
And there you have it, another chapter done, another chapter to be done. I want to thank you all for giving this story a chance and letting me take control of this little pet project of mine.
Throughout part one of the series, Naruto vs Gaara was my most favourite fight scene especially in the anime. The concept of duality, though clichéd in some elements has always been an interesting concept for me and none make it more obvious than the duality of Naruto and Gaara during part one. Sure, Sasuke and Haku may have as well counted but the impact of the concept really ran straight home with this.
I hope I've shown enough badassery in this chapter as well as enough fight scenes to keep you all entertained. I was lucky in that in between my 36 hours of duty I could find the time to write a little in a few minutes and then go back to re-doing my paperwork and reviewing my past subjects. It really helps that I get to take these few minutes of solitude with my laptop and then firing away whenever inspiration hits me.
Originally, I had wanted for Sarutobi Hiruzen to have a jutsu that would make him at least respectable in the same level as his predecessors and successor, but I decided to junk it. I had it already planned and research and then when I was about to put it into writing, the whole damn jutsu reminded me of Souzo Saisei (Genesis Rebirth) only too broken. I had to come back to the drawing board for it and decided to scrap the entire thing altogether. So whatever jutsu Sarutobi has that made him OP on his own, then I'll probably reference it and pass it on to Asuma or Konohamaru in the future. Whatever it is, It'll probably have some sort of Buddhist inspiration as with all many of the OP jutsu that Hashirama has.
This is another pre-beta'd version, I'll post the polished version after my awesome beta-reader gets to review it. I'm a busy fellow as Van can attest to that. So I hope you can have patience with me in putting this up. If only there was a way to make money at the comfort of your own home… Eeeehhhh…