Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or any of its characters as they are the property of Masashi Kishimoto. The author of the cover image is indy-riquez from DeviantArt. You can check the link for the original image in my profile.

Chapter 45: Retribution


Ino let out a moan of discomfort as her senses returned to her. Her blurred vision began to clear to make out the shape of a pair of bright pink eyes staring down at her in concern.

''Kurotsuchi?'' said the dozy Ino. She brought her palm to her head as a jolt of pain flared in her skull, the chattering of nearby people made her headache worse.

''Are you okay, Yamanaka?!'' said Kurotsuchi, nudging her gently.

With the now conscious heiress, Yamato came forward, not missing a beat. ''What happened here, and where is Sai?!''

''Sai...'' Ino lingered, confused and disoriented, then the memories of the day's previous events rushed back to her. ''Sai-kun!'' she peeled her eyes at the appalling recollection.

Ino sprung back up, managing to find her footing even in her sorry, numb state. She gendered around, searching for signals of her assailants or for her socially inept companion, but she found none, as a crowd of concerned civilians gathered around the now busy road.

''Oh no, they must have taken him!'' exclaimed Ino, her desperation escalating. ''Those ANBU got him!''

Yamato frowned, cursing under his breath. He feared they'd failed to stop the worst from happening. ''Damn it, we were too late,'' he exclaimed. If ROOT had already gotten Sai there was little they could do now.

Kurotsuchi shot Yamato a look of disbelief. ''Wait, you aren't expecting us to give up just like this, are you?'' she protested. ''You seem to know a lot about these guys. Can't you do like, anything? Lead us to their hideout maybe?''

Yamato shook his head in remorse. ''They have bases scattered both in and under Konoha, and Danzō never stays in a singular one for long periods of time. They could be anywhere.'' not to mention that he hadn't been a member of ROOT in ages, who knows how many more quarters they could have that he didn't know about.

Kurotsuchi was outraged at the suggestion but she also failed to think of a viable alternative. She clenched her fists in fury. They had to do something and it had to be done right now. Were they just supposed to stand idly by and let Danzō pick them off one by one whenever he pleased? There had to be a way to get the bastard to pay for all the shit he had put them through!

''We are definitely not letting them get away with this!'' Ino put her foot down, livid that they would even suggest such a thing. Sai's life was in the line here. ''I can still pick up traces of chakra from them, If we hurry we can still track them down!''

Kurotsuchi and Yamato shared a look of surprise. She was a sensor type?

''They went that way,'' Ino pointed to the distance. ''It's faint but I can still sense the chakra of the idiot that knocked me out.'' and they had used a Yamanaka technique on her to boot, so the imbecile that had attacked her was a member of her own clan! She was going to make that brute pay for daring to raise a hand against his own heiress and for taking her Sai-kun.

Yamato's eyes followed the direction that Ino was signaling. They had to be taking Sai to the hideouts outside the village. It made sense; after Konoha had been destroyed, most of the underground bases within the city limits must have collapsed. Good, those were older tunnels—he knew their layout. With Ino's guidance, he could help them weave their way through ROOT's hideout without losing their trail.

''In that case, let's get going there's no time to waste!'' hurried Kurotsuchi.

Just as the Iwa Kunoichi had said, the three of them blitzed away in haste, leaving behind a cluster of confused villagers on the street.

Sai dragged his feet across the dirt-covered stone floor, as his former comrades escorted him through the dim corridors. He ignored the strain on his wrists caused by the rope keeping his hands tied behind his back. He found roaming these underground tunnels to be difficult without tripping over himself. He wasn't very familiar with these particular bases. They were before his time and hardly ever used anymore. These were only temporary quarters for ROOT; the accommodations had been rushed, lacking even basic commodities like good illumination or proper paving, and the darkness engulfing permeated every inch.

''Move it.''

Sai stumbled on his feet from the forceful push Fū gave him. He refrained from shooting his captor a glare. He understood the protocol of a ROOT agent and knew that they had to always be vigilant and wary of potential threats, but he had been pretty complacent so far, he surmised. On top of it they had tied him and taken his weapons, he wasn't going to go anywhere, nor would he try to; it was pointless, they would just come looking for him or his friends. These little displays of roughness were overkill and unnecessary in his opinion, but on the other hand, he did betray the organization's trust in the first place. Well, It was of no importance now, everything was going to be over soon, for him at least.

They rounded a corner and came to a halt in front of another ANBU guarding a door. The man uncrossed his arms, silently examining them for any oddities. He nodded in satisfaction once he made sure everything was in order and proceeded to unlock the door for them. The wash of bright that came from the new room was almost blinding. It was a stark contrast to the rest of the dingy halls.

''Danzō-sama is waiting,'' said the man, holding the door open for them.

''You heard him,'' Torune prodded Sai.

Sai simply bit his tongue and did as he was told, the guard slamming the door behind them as they entered the spacious quarters.

Candelabra adorned the edges of the room, perched into each wall in countless rows, and at the center of the empty room was a simple wooden chair, with Danzō himself sitting on it, awaiting them.

Danzō made no move or expression whatsoever as they approached him, keeping a stony face all throughout. Despite his best efforts, Sai couldn't help but feel like cowering under the man's gaze as he studied him with a careful, uncaring eye. But Sai knew better, he had known Danzō-sama for most of his life. Regardless of the unrelenting stoicism that ROOT's leader seemed to convey, he could recognize the slight hints of a scowl threatening to form on his face.

''We have brought the deserter, Danzō-sama,'' said Torune as they came to a stop a few feet away from the old man.

Danzō nodded in acknowledgment but said nothing else, continuing to stare at the boy in silence.

Sai averted his eyes, no longer able to meet Danzō's. He wallowed in shame for bringing disappointment to his leader; the same leader that once had held him in high regard as one of ROOT's best agents.

Danzō exhaled loudly and stared at Sai a few seconds longers. ''Sai, why have you forsaken me?'' he said at last.

Sai shrunk like a small child about to receive his parents' reprimands, for he knew the kind of punishment that would befall him.

''It was not my intention, Danzō-sama,'' said Sai, hiding his face.

Danzō slammed his cane on the floor, Sai flinched.

''You didn't intend to betray me, you say?'' said Danzō incredulously. ''You are the one that told Naruto and the Iwa spy about me. Do you not consider that a betrayal?''

Sai could only reflect on his actions as his words relinquished him. He had not expected things to get so out of hand. He hadn't meant to betray the organization but he also didn't wish to leave his friends to any lurking dangers. He had told Danzō everything he knew about Naruto and Kurotsuchi, it wasn't fair that he had spied on them and then leave them to their fates should ROOT conclude they were an obstacle. He had felt...guilty.

Danzō studied the boy's expression, it was clear that he was conflicted, his internal turmoil was practically etched on his face.

''I did warn you to be wary of your emotions,'' Danzō reproached. ''Emotions are a hindrance to us shinobi. They cloud your judgment, and in turn, your purpose. As tools, ninjas are meant to serve the betterment of the village, and you have let your inner struggle and poor hold over your feelings jeopardize the village's interests and mine's.''

''I'm sorry, Danzō-sama,'' said Sai somberly.

''You know what happens to those that turn their backs to our organization and to me.''

''Yes Danzō-sama,'' replied Sai.

It was a shame, Danzō reckoned, Sai had been a valuable asset for a long time, and losing him to his emotions was disappointing. Maybe he himself also shared some of the blame; if he had refrained the boy from staying with Team Kakashi this situation could have been averted. No matter, what is done is done. He turned to his subordinate and gave him a nod of confirmation.

Fū understood his leader, grabbing Sai by the shoulders forcing the boy down into a kneeling position, while Torune handed his blade to Danzō.

With a firm grip on the sword, ROOT's leader stood up from his chair and stared down at his former subordinate. Regardless of Sai's betrayal, the boy had served him well for years and was at least going to give him the honor of dying by his hand.

''Anything left you have to say?'' asked Danzō, unsheathing the tantō from its scabbard.

Sai didn't lift his head, accepting his upcoming demise. ''Just one thing...Will my friends be alright?'' He had to know. He was okay with his death, but couldn't bear the thought that the friends he had finally made be put in danger because of his recklessness.

Danzō eyed him stoically. There it was—those same meddling emotions that had spoiled one of his most prized members. Still, he had no reason to let his former agent leave this world in distress.

''If you are talking about the Yamanaka girl, she is safe. Same for the ANBU woman,'' said Danzō. The only reason the girl had even intervened was because of Sai and once he was gone she would have nothing on him. Not to mention that getting rid of a clan heiress was not worth the trouble and even potentially damaging to the village as a whole. And the ANBU captain had been doing her job, her involvement had been more of a miscalculation on their part; had he known she was a sensor he would have refrained from sending his agents for the Iwa spy until the Hokage position had been secured.

''What about my team?'' Inquired Sai.

Danzō raised his eyebrow. There he went again with those pesky attachments. ''Kakashi and Tsunade's apprentice are also exempt from retaliation. However, Naruto is another matter.''

Sai broke away from his self-hating daze, lifting his head to look at Danzō in dismay.

''Naruto has proven himself to be quite the nuisance,'' explained Danzō. ''It is bad enough that our own jinchūriki has time and again enabled the Iwa spy to have more freedom within the village but now he goes and snatches the Hokage title that I so rightfully deserve. He has to be dealt with; both he and his wench.''

''But Naruto...He is...'' Sai tried to find the right words, a way to try and dissuade his master from leaving his friends alone. ''He is Konoha's hero now—the Hokage.''

''What are you saying, boy?'' said Danzō. ''Have you forgotten what we do? Getting rid of Naruto won't be too much of a problem, as for the girl, I will do what I should have done from the beginning and...make her see my way of thinking. Having a double agent of her station back in Iwa will be most beneficial to us.''

Sai's eyes were glued to the floor as he contemplated what he was hearing. Danzō was going to kill Naruto! And what did he mean about making Kurotsuchi 'see his way of thinking'?

''As for the rest of his companions, as long as they stay out of my way I have no quarrel with them,'' added Danzō.

But then, everything dawned on Sai, there was no way that Kakashi, Ino, and the rest, would stand back and let Danzō get rid of Naruto or even Kurotsuchi for that matter. They would all fight tooth and nail to defend them, to the bitter end if it was necessary. In that event, Danzō would have no choice but to have them share the same fate as their blond friend. In any case, one thing was certain: His friends were not really safe.

''That's all I can promise,'' said Danzō, the blade in his hand glinted dangerously as he gripped it firmly. ''You were a good tool, boy.''

Danzō brought down the sword upon Sai's neck, feeling the blade grace the youth's skin.

Blood dripped down from the edge of the blade as Danzō frowned in dissapointment. ''So it has come to this, Sai?'' he directed a glare towards the boy that had narrowly avoided the brunt of the attack.

Sai stood defiant against his former master as Fū and Torune adopted battle positions. Pain blazed from his gaping open cheek but he paid no mind to his wound. That had been close, a millisecond later would have spelled doom for him.

''You really are a traitor!'' exclaimed Fū.

''Do you still intend to go against Danzō-sama's wishes?'' added Torune.

''I do not mean to come across as ungrateful,'' said Sai. ''I appreciate the purpose that ROOT and Danzō-sama have given me until now, but I can't allow any harm to befall my new comrades.'' He had been ready to die, content with the life he had lived so far but if that meant perishing while his friends were left to deal with the consequences of his actions he would not—or rather, he could not allow himself to fall here and forgo his friends.

''I don't need your gratitude, I need your obedience!'' remarked Danzō. ''I see now that you are utterly and completely lost to our cause. I shall dispose of you before I deal with Naruto and the Iwa girl.''

''We will make sure that the traitor is dealt with swiftly, Danzō-sama,'' said Torune.

The ROOT leader and his agents eyed their renegade member, evaluating the boy. They recognized the futility of the boy's situation but they would not drop their guard regardless. Fū and Torune started circling Sai, like a wolf pack corners its prey, positioned to strike him down at any moment.

Sai tensed as he readied himself for a confrontation. The odds were stacked against him. It was three on one and he was unarmed and handbound. He realized that there was little he could do. Even if he was totally battle-prepared he doubted he could get out of this situation, and in his current state it was pretty much fruitless. But he had to try, Naruto always gave his best for his friends and he was going to reciprocate the feeling.


All the room's integrants turned their attention to the single lone door in the room. Muffled echoing shrieks seeped into the chamber from the halls beyond, followed by the sound of clattering metal and cries of agony. Soon after, the distinctive wet sounds of rag bodies hitting the floor joined the macabre rhythm. Then as quickly as it had begun, a thick silence soon replaced it.

All the room's integrants stared expectantly in the direction of the hallway just outside the room, just as puzzled as they were alert.

At that moment, a gigantic blade bathed in crimson sprouted from the door, accompanied by gurgling desperate yells gasping for breath that soon died out. A couple of seconds later, it retracted back, with a heavy thud plopping on the floor just outside.

A moment after, the door exploded into a shower of splinters as the same enormous sword smashed right through it.

''Knock knock, assholes!'' a white-haired youth stood at the entrance, surveying the room with a smug smirk, basking in the bewildered looks of everyone.

''Akatsuki?!'' said Danzō, recognizing the dark robes with red clouds that the newcomer was sporting.

Sai and his former comrades regarded the swordsman with wariness.

''You must be Danzō,'' said the intruder. ''We came all this way for a decrepit old fart like you? What a joke.''

''You won't lay a finger on Danzō-sama!'' Fū dashed at the swordsman, his own blade in hand.

The intruder didn't bother to dodge; his neck dematerializing into water as the blade cut through. Fū didn't have time to process his surprise before his adversary regenerated himself and retaliated with his own slash. The agent barely managed to bring up his sword to block but the sheer weight of the giant cleaver sent him careening back until his back slammed the concrete wall.

Danzō dropped his cane and reached for the bandages on his arm when a thousand cries of birds were heard, a split second before excruciating agony spread on his chest. The old man gawked down at the hand coated in lightning bursting through his torso. He glanced back to look into a pair of cold, vicious red eyes.

Sai could hardly grasp this turn of events, everything had transpired so fast and unexpectedly. What was the purpose of Sasuke's presence here?

''Danzō-sama!'' Torune rushed to his master's aid, removing the glove from his hand to reveal an unnatural purple skin color.

''Hahahaha!'' a hulking figure emerged from the darkened corridor, revealing a mutated crazed-looking man drenched in blood and entrails. ''Where do you think you are going, worm?!'' what appeared to be chakra jets morphed from the madman's calves propelled him forward. He caught the Aburame with a clawed hand, dragging him along. Sai narrowly got out of the way as they smashed right through a wall behind him.

''Man these guys went down fast,'' the white-haired boy said. ''How boring. Could have at least made the trip worth it.''

Fū took advantage of the swordsman's distraction. Even if the boy seemed to be impervious to conventional damage he still had a mind, and that's something that Fū could target. He made a hand seal and aimed at the complacent sword user. ''Shintenshin no—'' he was forced to dodge a shuriken coming for his blindspot, making him drop his technique. He tried to face the source of the attack, but in an instant, found himself being strangled by the swordsman instead.

''Are you brainless, Suigetsu?!'' a red-haired girl emerged from the corridor. ''Drop your guard like that again and I won't be saving your butt a second time.'' said the woman, adjusting her glasses with a condescending look.

''Shut it, Karin,'' said Suigetsu. ''I don't remember asking for your help, you annoying hag.'' he lifted Fū further into the air with his arm having somehow tripled in size as he choked the life out of the Yamanaka.

Sai regarded the scene in disbelief. They were good, they had dealt with two of the best ROOt agents and Danzō himself in a moment. He was broken out of his stupor as he ducked to avoid a kunai flying past him.

''Wait, I'm not with them!'' said Sai, dodging a barrage of weapons hurled towards him. Karin charged at him, ignoring his words.

Punches and kicks flew toward Sai that he did his best to dodge, the air whizzing around him with each blow gracing past, but eventually a false step led to the young woman scoring a hit to his head. The world spun around him, giving the girl the chance to tackle him to the ground, the sharp edge of a kunai at his throat.

''What the...this guy is all tied up,'' Karin noticed Sai's hands restrained behind his back.

''As I said, I'm not one of them,'' explained Sai, causing the girl to press the Kunai tighter against his skin, finding himself once again at the mercy of someone else for the second time in the day.

''Whatever, stay still and keep quiet,'' said Karin, caring little for his allegiances. At the moment, she was just concerned with keeping anyone from interfering with Sasuke.

With the battle so short-lived, now only the sounds of cracking and chirping of lightning filled the room.

''Sasuke...Uchi—blarh!'' Danzō spat out a gurgle of blood pooling in his mouth.

''Silence. I didn't come here to have a chat,'' said Sasuke, burying his hand deeper into Danzō's back. ''I want you to confess before I kill you, did you and the council order Itachi to kill my clan?''

Danzō stiffened in anger at Sasuke's words, despite his pain. So that's why the Uchiha intentionally missed all his vital organs. ''I see...so Itachi went and...spilled everything to you...damn him.''

Sasuke's face turned murderous. ''So it's true!'' his chidori blared violently inside Danzō's chest, eliciting an anguished scream from the old man.

''It won't make...a difference whether it's...true or false,'' said Danzō, using all that remained of his strength to form a single hand seal. ''You will all die here.''

A chain of fizzing sounds caused everyone to avert their eyes upward to see—much to their horror—the roof completely plastered with ignited paper bomb tags.

''This place will be your tomb,'' Danzō declared triumphantly just before a flash of light engulfed them and the whole place trembled, a deafening boom tearing apart the ceiling in a rain of rock and debris.

Author's note:

Crap, I was supposed to post this chapter yesterday but I completely forgot...Sorry about that. But at least it's here now, eh.
I apologize for the length. While it's not super short it wasn't long either but worry not, I have already started the next one which will come sooner than this one. I actually have a surprise for all of you, but it isn't ready just yet. I hope to have it done soon, so look forward to it.

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