a/n welcome back all! I just want to say, I was going through a really hard week, and I was really depressed about my writing. You know, the whole emo "My writing is crap!" thing. I was even thinking about discontinuing this story; I felt like no one was reading it *sob*. BUT THEN, I got the most awesome reviews, a lot of them anonymous. You guys have no idea how happy your reviews made me. Seriously. Now, with renewed vigor, I present to you the next chapter.
With you support, I felt really excited about editing this piece, and I'm really pleased with how it came out. I think it's my favorite chapter so far, and I have you guys to thank. Thanks so much for your encouragement!
Lol, also, like my new book cover? I made it myself! (heehee, I'm such a dork). The drawing of Yuki I did a long time ago, and the funky mountains in the back I made with my photoshop skillz:)
Without further ado: please enjoy:)
Chapter Thirty: Ghost
The lady of the mountain,
She mourns both night and day;
And though the birds sing round our cabin,
They cannot keep the night away.
~The First Book of Akash, verse XVII
Yuki faced her opponents and fought to remain calm. Yes, Yuki was outnumbered and outclassed, but these ANBU were all fond of her, and would probably go easy on her. Quickly, she calculated that the most dangerous opponent by far was Shikamaru—without his leadership, his team would disintegrate. She had her plan.
There was a moment of silence as the four adults regarded Yuki. Ino was the first to remove her mask. "Yuki, honey...we're your friends. Please come back to the village. We don't want to fight you—"
But Yuki took the opportunity while Ino spoke to strike.
"Fire style! Fire ball jutsu!" While the adults were busy dodging her attack, Yuki took shelter in the branches of a tree and hid herself using genjutsu.
"Damn it, Ino!" Temari yelped as the ends of her hair caught on fire.
"Troublesome..." Shikamaru drawled as he leapt back, his brow furrowed in thought. "We should radio back—"
But a barrage of kunai assailed them, and Shikamaru had no time to finish his sentence. Temari swept the weapons away effortlessly with her fan, but while the ninja were distracted, Yuki slipped into their midst like a flitting shadow. She stood directly in front of Shikamaru, whose eyes widened as they met Yuki's sharingan. Just as quickly as she had appeared, Yuki was gone.
Temari turned to her husband, "So now what do we do now, Shikamaru? Shikamaru! Damn it, he's under genjutsu!" She tried channelling chakra into his system, but the illusion was too strong.
"Ah, such nice clouds," the Nara mumbled, "that one looks like the Buddha..."
"Shika! Wake the fuck up!" Temari bellowed.
After a few futile attempts at reviving Shikamaru, Temari turned to her comrades. "Ino, any ideas?"
She was met with silence.
"Ino—damn it! She's caught, too. Choji? Oh for fuck's sake!"
Temari snarled, realizing that her companions were all under genjutsu. It seemed like they were enjoying it, though. Ino was mumbling something about nail polish, and Choji was making unconscious chewing motions. Muttering curses, Temari pressed her walkie talkie button—
But before she could say a word, a jet stream of fire engulfed the walkie talkie. Temari flung away the flaming plastic and closed her eyes to guard against the genin's genjutsu.
Temari let out an exasperated sigh. "Stop this. Ten is too young to become a rogue ninja. Turn back now and no one will hold this against you; proceed, and you'll wind up on Konoha's most wanted list."
"That's true; my father was about thirteen when he became rogue. Looks like I'll beat his record," Yuki replied coolly.
The younger ninja advanced, but Temari braced herself with her fan, eyes still closed to guard against the sharingan. As a kunoichi of the desert, she had been trained to fight even in the heart of a wind-storm, sans sight; this fight would be child's play.
But as the strains of flute music rang out through the clearing, Temari became confused—and then very, very alarmed. Because Yuki's father, after all, was legendary for being trained in sound jutsu... Before Temari could even flick her fan to ward off her impending doom, she began to sway. As her body fell towards the ground, Temari thought, idly, that Sasuke had perhaps trained his daughter a little too well.
"That was almost too easy," Yuki muttered as she disappeared from the clearing and ran to meet her traveling companions.
"Naruto, it's the end of the second day..."
"Baachan, I know, I know!" Naruto muttered as he paced around the office. "I just didn't think it would be this hard."
Just then, Shino materialized from a swarm of bugs. "Shino!" Naruto cried, "Tell me you have good news! Please, please tell me you have good news!"
The corners of Shino's mouth turned downwards. "Forgive me, Hokage-sama. We were unable to locate team Ino-Shika-Cho-Tem until just now—"
"Where are they? Did they find Yuki—" Naruto shouted, until Tsunade whopped him on the head.
"Brat, be quiet and let your ANBU report! Shino?"
Shino cleared his throat. "We have reconnected with team Ino-Shika-et all. They had contact with Yuki at about noon today, and were all taken out by her genjutsu."
"WHAT!" cried both the former and current Hokages.
Shino winced. "Would you like me to repeat my intel, Hokage-sama?"
There was a moment of silence.
"You mean to tell me...that a ten year old genin...defeated four elite ANBU agents—including my head of intelligence?" Naruto rasped.
Shino gulped. "Mmmm. That seems to be the case, Hokage-sama."
Naruto whipped out his walkie talkie. "Sasuke? Sasuke teme!"
"Kchhh. What do you want?" came Sasuke's irritated reply.
"Sasuke, you raised a monster. An absolute monster. Are you ready to jot down some coordinates?"
When Naruto was done barking orders, he sat down heavily in his chair. Thank heavens for the quasi-rinnegan Sasuke had in his head, Naruto thought; because Naruto was pretty sure that the only one who could take down one rabid Uchiha was another.
The run-in with the ANBU hadn't delayed their progress by much. A slice of moon rose in the east, while the sunset illuminated the mountains to the west. Yuki gasped at the beautiful sight—the scene looked exactly as it had her dreams.
"Yuki dearest," Akemi called softly, "please summon Tama. She'll know the way from here."
Yuki bit her thumb and slammed it to the ground. When Tama materialized, Yuki shouted for joy and flung her arms around the cat's neck.
Tama purred, "It's been a long time, hasn't it, Yuki-san? But we don't have time for a long greeting. Things are quite dire..."
Yuki eyed the cat askance, but when no more information was forthcoming, she leapt up onto her summon's back. In a flash the four were off, flitting under the pale light of the moon. The wind roared in Yuki's ears as they climbed, higher and higher into the mountains.
When they were about half-way up the mountain side, clouds obscured the face of the moon, darkening the sky. Yuki's guts twisted in dread. Tama, beneath her, cried, "We have to hurry! He's coming!"
Yuki had no time to ask who, exactly, was coming, before the cats ran even faster. The clouds above rumbled, and a furious rain began to pelt the earth; lightning streaked the black heavens. Tama leapt through the darkness, and Yuki's breath caught in her throat—
As they hurdled through space, time congealed, and Yuki felt like they passed through a thick, invisible waterfall. The lightning stopped, and also the driving rain; the sky was clear and the waxing moon was grinning up in the sky as it if had never left.
"Thank Kami!" Tama sighed.
"What...?" Yuki began, but trailed off when she noticed that they were surrounded by shadowy figures. One of the strangers stepped forward into the light, but Yuki recognized her kind eyes and dark, curly hair.
"Aya..." Yuki breathed. This was the kunoichi who had saved her—who had appeared in her dreams. Aya spared Yuki a smile before rushing over to Akemi.
"Baachan," Aya whispered as she funneled green healing chakra into the bedraggled woman.
Akemi smiled weakly. "It's a pleasure to come home, Aya-chan. Now I can finally die in peace."
"BAACHAN!" both Yuki and Aya shouted.
Akemi shrugged. "What? I'm not exactly a spring chicken anymore..."
Aya scoffed, "If you can make bad old people jokes, then you're all right."
"Oh dear me, please forgive an old woman her morbid sense of humor," Akemi remarked wryly. And then, more urgently: "How strong is the boundary?"
"Don't worry. It will last long enough..." Aya replied.
Long enough for what? Yuki wondered. But she forgot all about her question when Aya took her hand.
"Welcome, Yuki-san, Tama-san. Thank Kami you've come."
Yuki offered Aya a wan smile. "Um...thanks." Yuki looked into Aya's warm, dark eyes, and had a strange sense of homecoming.
Aya chuckled. "You must be tired. We have a bed made up for you."
A bed—that sounds heavenly, Yuki decided. "Thank you, Aya-sama, for your kindness."
Aya laughed again. "Please. Call me Aya-sensei."
Yuki nodded. "Aya…sensei."
Aya laughed her warm, ringing laughter and Yuki took a deep breath. For the first time in a long time, Yuki felt like everything was going to be okay.
Tama purred and licked Aya's arm. "It's good to be back, mistress."
Yuki eyed her summons in confusion. "What?"
Aya placed a small hand over her mouth. "Oh! Tama is my summons as well!" she chimed. "I guess we didn't have a chance to tell you."
Yuki looked at her summons in mute shock.
"I'm sorry, Yuki. That is why I had to fight Naruto and your father; I couldn't let them discover this place..." Tama began, but Aya cut her off with a wave of her hand.
"We'll talk about all that tomorrow. For now, baachan and Yuki should rest."
Yuki nodded gratefully; for once her weariness was greater than her curiosity.
Sasuke wiped the sweat out of his eyes and called in on his walkie talkie again. "Kakashi?" he snapped.
"Kchh. I've found her position, courtesy of Pakkun. You'll need to hurry."
"Just give me the coordinates!"
"Kchh. She's sixty degrees west of us by about one mile. Are you sure you don't want me to come? I know I'm no Uchiha, but my sharingan—"
Sasuke was already running at top speed as he barked, "No. This is my mess. I'll clean it up." And truly, Sasuke thought, anyone without his level of ocular jutsu would just be in the way.
Sasuke swore he heard Kakashi sigh on the other end of the line. "Kchh. Fine. Sakura and I will provide back up; we'll be just outside her sensorial range, a little over one-hundred feet—"
"That's no good, Kakashi," Sasuke broke in again, panting in between words. "The summons are going to have a wider range than that. Stand back at least five-hundred feet. And mask your chakra as well. Over."
"Kchh. Roger that. Over."
Sasuke ran through a meadow painted silver by the moonlight, scanning the contours of the land with his ocular jutsu. At last, he spied the cats carrying Akemi and Yuki on side of the mountain, their forms mere specs in the distance. Sasuke channeled chakra into his feet and ran with all his might, flying like a bird through the glinting moonlight.
Before long, the moon was hidden by clouds, and Sasuke stumbled through the shadows. Torrential rain hit his skin like a shower of senbone, but he ignored the pain. He keep running until his legs went numb, but Sasuke didn't care—his eyes were fixed on Yuki. He was getting closer; soon he would catch her in his arms and he would never let her go again—
Just as Sasuke was coming near, Yuki disappeared from sight. One minute she was there, and the next, she was just gone. The air turned as cold as ice, and Sasuke's breath froze in his lungs. His eyes darted wildly to find Yuki—but she was nowhere to be found. Sasuke wanted to keep running, but his body halted when he heard—
Sasuke knew that voice. Without thinking, he hissed and executed the naraka path.
"That jutsu is not going to work on me, Sasuke-kun," his opponent rumbled.
But Sasuke summoned the demon's head all the same, and snarled when his masked adversary dissolved Sasuke's jutsu with a wave of his hand.
"Come now, Sasuke-kun, is that any way to greet your old sensei?"
Sasuke gnashed his teeth. "I am going to end you, Uchiha Madara. I am going to fucking end you!" Sasuke's roared, as the jagged tongues of his chidori forked the air.
But Madara, cloaked in black, face obscured by an orange mask, laughed as he shimmered in the air like mist. "I didn't come to fight, Sasuke-kun. I just came to talk."
"My ass you did! Where did you take Yuki?" Sasuke screamed. He struck out with chidori, illuminating the dark clearing with blinding blue light. When the light cleared, Madara was gone.
Sasuke swiveled around at the sound of Madara's sibilant voice.
"Well, yes, I did come after Yuki-chan. But it's too late for that; they've got their paws on her now. Anyway, you know that chidori won't work against me, either—"
"Why can't you just DIE!" Sasuke shrieked, hurling more lightning at Madara. But Madara dematerialized in a swirl of air, reappearing a moment later just out of Sasuke's range.
"Mmm, what part of eternal mangekyo sharingan do you not understand, Sasuke-kun?" Madara mocked. "It's not my fault you shorted out your own eternal mangekyo when you used izangi against me in the last war. Otherwise you, too, could know the perfect agony of eternal life." Madara dematerialized once more as Sasuke activated the rinnegan's repulse-pull attack.
Sasuke stood, panting in the middle of the open field, looking on all sides for the man who had ruined his life once, and was trying to do so again.
Sasuke spun around, but could not find Madara. "Come out, you fucking coward!"
"Listen, idiot, I just want to talk. But if you insist on being difficult, I suppose I could just kill your precious son right now..."
Sasuke blanched. "My son? What…?"
A blue film appeared in the air in front of Sasuke. Before he could react, a projection ran on it, showing Takeo sleeping peacefully in his bed.
"You sick fuck—why do you have a video of my son?"
Madara's disembodied voice laughed at that. "You see, Sasuke-kun, while you were busy running around like a chicken without a head, I spend the past day injecting my chakra into your little baby boy. Usually it takes me a week or so to possess a subject, but since Takeo-chan is such a tiny guy, it didn't take much time at all."
"You—you did what?"
"Oh, I'll spell it out for you. But first, mask your chakra? And kill the walkie talkie. I'm getting tired of hearing Sakura-chan's shrieks."
Sasuke's gaze was fixed on the projection of his son as he masked his chakra and turned off his walkie talkie; Sakura's worried cries, which Sasuke hadn't even heard before, were silenced abruptly.
"Very good, Sasuke. Now please, have a seat."
As if transfixed, Sasuke sank down to the ground on his knees. "What...?"
Madara materialized from thin air and let the projection fade, leaving Sasuke blinking in the darkness. Madara began, "You see, my dear Sasuke-kun, after the last war, I subsumed Zetsu's body and have survived as a parasitical host, feeding off the chakra of others. I'm sure your delightful medical researchers have surmised that, at least?"
Sasuke shook his head, too dumbfounded to speak.
Madara snorted. "Well, to make a long story short, I developed a wonderful little jutsu. It allows me to suck out a person's chakra for my own personal enjoyment. And, once they are empty, I inject them with a bit of my own essence, and viola! My own little zombie! I've been forming quite an army—much better than the crappy living dead Kabuto made in the last war."
Sasuke's guts clenched. "You mean, all those people disappearing on the border—?"
"Oh come on, I made it freaking obvious that it was me. I wanted to have you guys in suspense, all 'Oh no, big bad Madara's coming back into town'..." Madara trailed off and sighed. "I'm assuming by your blank expression that Konoha actually didn't figure out that it was me?"
"We had our suspicions," Sasuke snapped.
Madara looked disappointed and crossed his arms over his chest. "You are all dumber than I thought. In any event, I am now able to take on a host's body... I can tell that you haven't the slightest idea what this means. You see, grasshopper, when you used izangi on me all those years ago, you robbed me of most of my human form."
"Damn it, has peacetime made you absolutely daft! Did you really have no idea what you were doing when you used izangi?"
Sasuke opened his mouth, but no sound came out.
"Right. As I was saying, when you zapped me, I lost most of my physical form and became almost ghost-like. As you can see, I'm barely able to materialize before you right now; my form wavers like a gods-damned heat mirage." Madara turned in a full circle to illustrate his point; his body fluttered, like a flag in the breeze.
"It is quite disconcerting. Initially, I was able to survive from ingesting Zetsu, but after a while, his chakra and flesh faded and I needed more. I went to feed on plants, animals, and finally, humans. It's a nasty business, but, survival of the fittest you know."
"You make me sick," Sasuke spat.
"Moving right along: I became tired of merely sucking out chakra and making zombies. You have to understand, I'm a man of refined tastes. I really want to have a more substantial form myself. So I began trying out host bodies; unfortunately, most people cannot sustain a wonderful parasite such as myself, due to my unique constitution and chakra requirements. It was then that I remembered our long lost branch family, the Hill Folk as they so quaintly call themselves." Here Madara gestured towards the hills.
"So you are in league with the Hill People!" Sasuke yelled, enraged and fearful all at once.
"Um...no. If you kept your mouth shut, you would sound less stupid. As I was saying, I found the delightful Hill Folk, and started abducting their sharingan users. Unfortunately, their blood is highly diluted at this point; I could only wear a body for a month at most before it would start to decay. And then, much to my dismay, the Hill Folk figured out a way to keep me—and everyone else—out of their territory quite permanently.
"That's when I sent my wonderful zombies after your daughter, hoping to take her body for my own. I figured Yuki's strong constitution would have lasted me for at least a year, if not more."
"You sick fuck! That's my daughter!"
"Well, it is a moot point, she's out of my clutches now. Moving on to my contingency plan—you."
"You have three days to give me your body. If you don't, I'll kill your darling baby boy."
"You're bluffing! You don't have the capabilities—"
Madara gestured, and the projector screen appeared again with the image of Sasuke's sleeping child. "Observe, Sasuke-kun."
Madara gestured, and chakra began flowing out of Takeo's body—and right into Madara.
"Stop! Please, please stop!" Sasuke wailed, his eyes darting wildly between the picture and Madara.
Madara cut off the jutsu. A now ill-looking Takeo mewed pitifully before tossing and turning in his bed.
"You—you bastard!" Sasuke rasped. If he hadn't already been kneeling on the ground, he would have collapsed.
"You have three days, Sasuke. Come to this very spot in three days, give me your body, and I'll spare your son. But of course, you can't tell anyone about our pleasant conversation, and you can't harm your eyes in any way. It is unfortunate that you gave away your mangekyo, but as I have my own, I assure you it is no problem. I do look forward to playing with your new, half sharingan, half rinnegan eyes."
There was a moment of silence as Sasuke stared at the cold ground. "Why—why give me three days?" he whispered.
Madara chortled. "Honestly? I want to watch you squirm. Which will you choose? Will you tell your dumb-ass of a Hokage about our discussion, and thus sacrifice the life of your son? Or will you choose your own death and the assured destruction of Konoha, all to save little Takeo-chan?" Madara chuckled at his, but then his head snapped up and he hissed.
"Oh dear," Madara murmured, "it looks like your little playmates are closing in on us. Remember, Sasuke-kun, I'll be listening and watching from the shadows, so don't do anything rash. It would be such a shame if Takeo became the youngest member of my zombie army. Chow for now!" Madara called as he shimmered, then disappeared in a swirl.
Moments later, Kakashi and Sakura found Sasuke still staring at the ground, shaking, as if trapped in genjutsu.
a/n So I wrote the rough draft to this fic last year, before edo Madara appeared in the manga. Still, I think my Madara theory holds true, and it is this: I think that Tobi is some revived form of Madara. Maybe he is another ninja with Madara's genetics implanted, or maybe he is something like a Zetsu clone; in short, my theory about Tobi is that he is some ghost-like incarnation of Madara, with less power, but with the same EVIL!
For the purposes of this fic, Tobi and Madara are just the same dude. As the manga still stands, I think this theory is still plausible:)
Anyway, thanks so much for reading! Please tell me what you think via your kind review;)