It was a well-known fact that Kushina, and now her son Naruto, were some of the last of the Uzumaki.
Other than her, Obito only knew of Uzumaki Nagato, in Ame.
What had once been one of the great clans of the Elemental Nations, one of the strongest of the minor villages, was little more than a memory and a few stray members separated across the continent. Their techniques, their fuinjutsu honed over five-hundred years, their blood limits now rested solely in Kushina and whatever family she made with Minato.
The Uzumaki clan was so forgotten, in fact, that upon marrying Namikaze Minato she had taken his name rather than he hers, as would have been traditional for an orphan marrying into a powerful clan.
For Obito, the Uzumaki, Uzushio, had always been something like a half-remembered after-thought.
He'd learned about them in school, in history classes he'd barely paid any attention to. The founding of Konoha had seemed like ancient history, and he'd thought he'd known enough about the clan wars from typical Uchiha ranting that he could ace the test without even trying. Uzushio was just that sister village that, once upon a time, had existed.
He'd envied the jonin's flak jacket, always imagining how important and distinguished he'd look in it, glowering when Kakashi had earned it for himself at thirteen. He'd distantly noted the red circles on the sleeve, the memento to their fallen sister village Uzushio and the alliance that had once existed between them and Konoha.
He'd known that the Uzumaki had once been a great clan, that Kushina was its sole heir. However, he vaguely remembered Minato having once noted that Kushina, while a member of the main family, had been the youngest of several children and was never its intended heir.
That was all just a ghost of a memory, though, something that flitted about the edges of his consciousness even after the Kannabi bridge had greatly changed his outlook on life.
It wasn't until Lee brought it up that he reconciled himself with the tragedy of what had happened.
He was fourteen, almost fifteen, towards the end of that first year he was apprenticed to Lee, and they had been on a mission in England again. They weren't doing much that day; the Wizengamot was off session, the auror office had no work for them, there was no need to visit the English nin, and Ollivander had only just thrown them out of his shop the day before.
He'd woken up to the sight of Lee already dressed, staring dully at the calendar in their inn room at the Leaky Cauldron.
She didn't acknowledge him, didn't explain her mood, just quietly looked away from the calendar and out towards the window. Blinking out at the morning sunlight she'd said, mildly, "It's a beautiful day today."
She then turned to look at him. "I think, perhaps, we'll take the day off."
They'd ended up in downtown London, the muggle side, on a bench in St. James Park. In front of them was a pond filled with ducks, geese, and the occasional swan. Civilians tossed them food, tittering as the birds swam near.
It was a nice day, a quiet day, but they'd also been sitting here for two hours, and all Lee had been doing was staring into space behind opaque black sunglasses.
"So, are we doing anything today?" Obito finally asked.
"You have no idea what day it is, do you?" Lee asked in turn.
"Um," Obito said slowly, looking around for inspiration, trying to see if he was forgetting something obvious. "Tuesday?"
"Today was the final day of the siege of Uzushio," Lee said. "The village fell today."
"Oh," Obito said lamely.
He'd never remembered the date. Not that he ever did. Obito had no idea when Konoha's founding was except that there was always a festival around the same time. He had no idea which day the first or second wars had ended on.
Uzushio's fall seemed like a small one compared to some of those.
Awkwardly, Obito looked at her, her expression still sober and unchanging. "Weren't you too young? I mean, you weren't there, were you?"
"No," Lee said shortly, "I was only ten, I was still in the academy with Minato and Kushina. She had just moved to Konoha that year."
She glared out across the pond. "Not that many of our people were there. That was the trouble; Uzushio called for our aid, and we came far too late."
She glanced at Obito. "I suppose you're too young to really understand what that means, what it was like. Hell, I'm almost too young."
"What do you mean?" Obito asked.
"Nothing of the village survived," Lee said. "Kiri left nothing. No man, no woman, no child was spared. Those who survived did so by sheer luck because they happened to be away when the village fell. They say that the tide pools ran red with blood."
Lee shrugged then, a forced casual motion. "I shouldn't give you grief for it. It's over, the past is the past, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. And those that can… they shouldn't do anything about it."
She sighed, conjured food for the birds out of nothing, and threw it out into the pond. "I just wish, sometimes, that we'd put a little more effort into remembering that an entire people are now gone."
"Well," Obito said slowly, "We don't put in no effort. I mean, I did learn about it, and we have the jacket."
"We have the jacket," Lee dully repeated.
She didn't say much more about it, but it did get Obito thinking, and for the first time that day it struck him that in the course of a single day, what had once been a bright, vibrant, powerful clan was suddenly gone.
And someday, those that remembered them as anything more than a history lesson would be gone too.
All Obito could think was that despite his relenting, despite the idiotic sentimentality that could so easily lead to his death should one of them to betray him, this ghost of Hatake Kakashi might very well die anyway.
By the time they'd made it up the mountain to Obito's cavern, Kakashi had drifted off into a feverish sleep. Rin wasted no time taking him from Obito, laying him down on the floor, and starting in on him. Well, starting in whatever way she could.
The Jedi had many techniques far outside a shinobi's capabilities.
Obito knew of no shinobi born in the elemental nations with the ability to see the future or even glimpse the unseen past. Aside from Lee, Obito had never heard of a shinobi being able to summon or manipulate objects with chakra alone to the extent the Jedi or English wizards could. For shinobi, the manipulation of senchakra was a dangerous ability that very few had ever touched, let alone mastered. Those who attempted to learn it usually ended up dead. All Jedi did was work with senchakra, starting at the age shinobi typically started the academy. Even the most common of Jedi matched the Yamanaka in terms of mastery over the human mind.
However, there were also many things the Jedi lacked.
The bread and butter of common shinobi—subterfuge, infiltration, or even picking out spies—was something they had little to no concept of. Oh, they went undercover now and then, but it was a half-assed thing that mostly relied upon mind tricks to get by. It was very easy to spot a Jedi trying desperately hard not to be a Jedi, and it was notoriously difficult for Jedi to flush out Siths even when hiding in plain sight. The Jedi were excellent swordsmen, and their hand to hand combat wasn't lacking, but they often lacked a shinobi's imagination in combat. The Jedi had no concept of ninjutsu, manipulating their own chakra for techniques, instead jumping from zero to one hundred in their sole reliance on senchakra. They were lucky in that they had very few enemies with similar amounts of chakra, and those enemies were trained in the same craft and techniques, but Obito wouldn't put money on them in a real fight.
Obito wasn't sure how he'd rate the Jedi method of healing vs. the shinobi.
He couldn't say he knew much about either.
In Konoha, back home, he'd never had much talent or interest in healing. Rin acted as their genin team's primary healer, and so there'd never been any real incentive to learn. Obito had always been far more interested in becoming a flashy ninjutsu specialist, the kind of ninja that couldn't help but draw attention and respect from others. It also didn't help that he'd ended up apprenticed to a jonin who knew even less about healing than he did.
He knew the basics that everyone had to know, enough to presumably keep him alive during a solo mission should things go badly, but he was anything but an expert.
Obito the Jedi, for obvious reasons, had been similar. All Jedi knew some healing techniques for the same reason shinobi did, but the ones who became experts were few and far between. Padawan learners specialized in fields such as diplomacy, history, engineering, mathematics, aviation, or else become something akin to a shinobi field agent. Healing was simply one path a Jedi might choose to travel.
What he did know, or suspect, was that Jedi healers had grown accustomed to the advanced technology they often worked with. They relied upon bacta tanks and surgical droids. Unlike Rin's training in Konoha, medical assistance designed for emergencies in the field focused solely upon getting the injured party back to a state-of-the-art hospital as soon as possible.
The nearest bacta tank was assumed to be nearby, help was presumed to be on the way, and to Obito's knowledge the Jedi didn't focus on how to purge infections inside a cave with nothing but your bare hands and the Force itself.
Still, she appeared to be trying.
She knelt over Kakashi, eyes closed and brow furrowed in concentration, holding her hands an inch over her skin. The Force moved in eddies beneath her fingertips, seeping into Kakashi's skin to rearrange tissue, invigorate cells, and drive out infection. She didn't seem remotely aware of her surroundings, of Obito standing over her shoulder, considering.
He could kill them both now and he was sure that neither she nor Kakashi would even notice.
Obito turned away from her and moved to sit against the cavern wall several feet away. A quick glance at his surroundings showed him that Jinn, for whatever reason, had disappeared back into thin air. Without him the cavern was utterly barren; everything was stored in Kamui. He hadn't even bothered with a fire. Too easy to spot.
He quickly found himself growing bored and irritated.
Whatever fit of compassion he'd had when agreeing to provide aid to Rin and Kakashi —their cheap Jedi counterparts, at any rate—was dripping slowly away from him. He tapped his fingers impatiently against the floor, feeling the return of that anxious restlessness that had haunted him since the mangekyo sharingan broke through.
Just what was Obito supposed to do here?
He was still exhausted, but it wasn't as if he could sleep with these two here. Wouldn't it be so terribly ironic if Rin was just a cheap puppet after all, and stabbed him the moment he let down his guard?
Similarly, if he left for Kamui, then they might simply use that time to prepare an ambush upon his return.
He could leave and exit Kamui in another cavern in yet another mountain range on Alderaan, he supposed, but that somewhat defeated the purpose of having offered his aid in the first place. If, in fact, that was what he had done.
He wasn't sure, he just knew that abandoning the pair here didn't feel all that different than leaving them outside the wards. Obito hated second-guessing his own decisions, he preferred to make them and then be done with it, but in this case he couldn't help but wonder if he'd so easily forgotten that he could trust no one.
Especially those who wore such friendly faces.
Regardless, Obito neither slept in the cave nor left for Kamui. Instead he just watched Rin with half-lidded eyes.
It took a few hours, dawn breaking over the horizon, but finally she slumped in exhaustion and moved away from Kakashi. She collapsed onto her back, wiped sweat and strands of hair away from her face, and stared dully up at the ceiling.
Then, the smallest of smiles. "He's going to live."
Obito glanced over at Kakashi. He didn't know if he'd say he looked better, but the wounds had been cleaned and bandaged, and his breathing seemed more even and perhaps less labored than it had been climbing the mountain.
"Good," Obito said shortly, without any real positive emotion, not moving from where he sat.
Slowly, as if she'd only just remembered him, Rin looked over her shoulder towards him. Her eyes were blown wide with terror, her lips trembled, but she didn't move to defend herself.
Instead, slowly and very carefully, she sat upright.
With a stiff, formal nod, she ducked her head and bit out, "Thank you, Obito."
"Didn't I tell you not to thank me?" Obito couldn't help but ask.
Rin flinched, but didn't take back her words. Instead, taking a steadying breath in, she said, "You did, but it's still true that he would have died were it not for you. So, thank you, Obito."
How very Rin.
He could see her, the shinobi version from his childhood, saying that same thing. Looking just as proud, just as scared, as she dared him to do his worst. Rin may have been the most levelheaded of the three of them, but that didn't mean she couldn't be courageously stupid.
He turned to stare out the cave. The early morning light had turned pale, that snow Obito had expected was just starting to fall, and there wasn't a human soul in sight out there. No hint of pursuit for either Rin, Kakashi, or himself.
"Obito," Rin called out.
She flinched again as he looked back at her. He sighed. "Relax, if I was going to kill the two of you, I would have done it before I brought you here. I don't make decisions twice."
She swallowed, nodded slightly, clearly not trusting a word out of his mouth. She didn't say that out loud though. Instead, she noted, "You've changed."
Hadn't she expected that? Hadn't that been what everyone had expected when the Force had sicced them on him like hunting dogs? That was the whole point, wasn't it? That Obito had changed, he had fallen to the dark side, and the Obito Uchiha they knew was dead.
Which, in a way, was true. Obito the Jedi was dead and Obito would never return to being him ever again.
"But you're not what I expected either," Rin said, interrupting his thoughts.
"Hm?" he asked, but she was scrutinizing him, eyes moving up and down his rumpled disguise.
She crossed her legs beneath her, shifted to face him fully, but kept a healthy distance between them.
"When Kakashi and I accepted this mission, we were told what it would be like, what we would undoubtedly have to do," she explained. "The council expected we would have to kill you. We were sent because they believed Kakashi might be the only one both willing and able to do it. Together we could make you hesitate long enough for Kakashi to strike the killing blow. More, he was willing to deliver it in a way your master was not."
She didn't flinch from his gaze; her dark eyes met his dead on without the slightest flicker. "Capture if possible, kill when necessary, that was our mission."
"Well," Obito drawled after a moment, "That really worked out for you two."
Rin almost smiled then caught herself, seemed to remember just who and what she was speaking to. "We—We didn't think there was anything left of you to save. But then… You've let us live twice now."
Rin looked out the cavern, biting her lip for a moment. "That first fight, you could have easily killed us both, but you didn't. You left us our lightsabers and simply moved further into the mountains… Then, this second time, you could have simply left us to die, and chose not to."
She turned back to look at him, seeming to wait for him to say something. Finally, after the pause went on entirely too long, he offered a blithe, "You're welcome."
She scowled for a moment, but bit back her own sarcastic retort, saying instead, "You know what I mean, Obito."
"Perhaps the dark side merely suits me," he responded with a bitter smile.
"That's not funny," she said.
No, he supposed it wasn't.
But what was a corrupted Uchiha Obito supposed to look like anyway? Was he a mustache twirling Bond James villain? Was he a mad beast who slaughtered everything in his path?
No, Obito knew what Obito the Sith would look like. It was the Obito that could have been, in that other world where he never escaped Madara. And yes, that man could and perhaps would have killed Kakashi without a second thought. If Kakashi was left alive, it was only to serve a later end.
That Obito would murder his entire family, even the children, without a moment's hesitation.
For all that Obito had been tempted to kill Rin and Kakashi, or better yet leave them to die, that he did not do it meant he wasn't that Obito yet.
Whatever the dark side truly was, he hadn't hit it quite yet, but that didn't mean that perhaps one day he might. Another, different Obito had, after all.
He decided to turn the tables on her. "What do you and Kakashi plan to do next?"
She glanced back down at Kakashi, frowning and reaching out for his hand, squeezing it gently. "I don't know."
She sighed. "I wanted to go back to the temple, but Kakashi said we couldn't, and I know he's right."
She turned to stare out the cave, as if just by staring hard enough she could see whatever the future held for them out there in Alderaan's pale morning light. "The outer rim, he thought, some unpopulated planet far from the republic and the separatists. On our way, or perhaps when we get there, we'll try to contact anyone from the council. If there's anyone left from the council."
"If?" Obito asked.
"No one's answering at the temple," Rin said. "Kakashi tried to comm his old master directly, but there was no response. We weren't able to get a hold of anyone, then we boarded our ship and…"
Rin trailed off damningly, the ending of her sentence all too clear. However, before Obito could comment she added, "You must feel it too though, Obito."
She looked at him with a soft, sad, smile. "The Force. There's… such a feeling of loss, Obito. So many of us gone, just like that, and for those that are left, nothing but dread."
Jinn had said as much, hadn't he? He'd asked if Obito felt it, the moment it happened, the moment the tides of war had turned not on the republic but on the Jedi who fought for them.
"What about you?" Rin suddenly asked, "What do you plan to do?"
Obito laughed and motioned to their surroundings. "Do I look like a man with a plan?"
Rin didn't smile or laugh in turn; in fact, if anything she looked determined. She straightened her back, lifted her head to meet his gaze dead on, and said, "You can come with us."
"What?" Obito couldn't help but ask, but she didn't take it back.
"Come with us, Obito," Rin repeated firmly.
"Are you politely asking me to be your prisoner?" Obito asked, his mouth falling open and eyebrows raised at her sheer gall, but Rin shook her head.
"We don't have Force blockers, they were destroyed in the explosion. Search us if you have to." She dug out her pockets and undid her outer robe, showing him the empty fabric, her lightsaber her only visible weapon.
Oh, he was going to do that sooner or later with or without Rin's permission, but that didn't stop him from gaping.
"Didn't you just admit to coming here solely to kill me?" Obito asked.
"Only if there was nothing left of you," Rin said, "And from everything I've seen, I don't think you're gone yet."
"Does Kakashi agree with that?" Obito asked.
"We came here, didn't we?"
Of course he did.
How very Kakashi of him.
You don't kill him one time and suddenly he thinks that you're not going to bother killing him the next time. And unfortunately, despite every piece of logic in the world, he happened to be right. Once again, Kakashi was so cleverly idiotic that he'd somehow stumbled upon the answer he had no business believing in for a second.
This Kakashi might just be a replica, but damn, the Force really had nailed him.
Obito held up a hand, stopping Rin's thought process before it could get too far. "First, let's be honest, Rin. You're not inviting me to come with you, you are so graciously inviting yourselves to come with me. I, after all, am the one with a ship. Yours just exploded."
Rin at least had the decency to look somewhat embarrassed by that.
"Given that," Obito said with a dull look at her, "I will have to politely decline your offer."
Rin scowled, glowered for a moment, then blurted, "Do you really want to be alone? When Kakashi and I leave, you might never see us again."
"Given what you believe I am," Obito said dryly, "I'd think that would be for the best, don't you?"
Rin opened her mouth to say something, to blurt something utterly ridiculous to convince Obito that she didn't think he was a deadly Sith or she thought he was ill or something, but he spoke before she could, "Rin, shut up and go to sleep."
Rin huffed, opened her mouth to argue, but then closed it. For a moment she just glared at him, maybe waiting for him to crack first, but he never did. Instead, in a ridiculous motion of trust, she lay back down next to Kakashi and said only, "We're talking about this in the morning."
Within only a few minutes she was asleep, apparently unconcerned that Obito still could walk up to both her and Kakashi and slit their throats if he wanted to. Perhaps she figured it no longer mattered, they were completely at Obito's mercy, might as well embrace it.
Or perhaps she really did trust him not to kill her as any Sith would.
Which, of course, was sheer stupidity and beyond aggravating because she also happened to be right.
He wouldn't be killing either Rin or Kakashi tonight.
Even if it'd serve him better in the long run.
He shifted against the wall, looking blearily out of the cave again, wondering when and if Jinn would make a reappearance. Perhaps, with Kakashi and Rin here, the Force figured they served as better spies than Jinn ever could.
Perhaps the Force realized that, somewhere in Obito's bleeding sentimental heart, he was considering Rin's offer in a way he never would with Jinn.
He couldn't, of course; they were spies whether they knew it or not. They could draw other Jedi to him, they might even turn on him themselves, they could not be trusted. He could offer them shelter, temporarily, but soon enough it'd be time for them to go their separate ways.
Then, just as Rin promised, he would never see them again.
No, he thought as he forced his eyes closed, he would see them again. He'd see the real Rin and Kakashi again, not these illusions, stolen memories that the Force never should have been party to.
Leaving them behind, to live or die, meant nothing.
Still, even for an illusion, it had been a truly kind and generous offer on Rin's part.
Oh, she may have been inviting herself onto his ship, but that didn't make the offer less remarkable. It was risking more than her and Kakashi's life to make it—sacrificing everything they believed in and perhaps any chance of finding the other Jedi.
If, on this hypothetical road trip of theirs, someone did happen to answer the call, then Obito couldn't imagine they'd be thrilled to hear Kakashi and Rin were shacking it up with the Sith who could disappear into thin air.
He'd never agree, of course, but that didn't make it any less extraordinary.
For a moment, he imagined his own hypothetical offer in kind. If he managed to break this illusion, if Rin and Kakashi weren't merely illusions based off memories after all, if the Force had made flesh and blood and given them warped versions of Obito's memories for histories, then he could offer to take them back to Konoha with him and Lee.
Of course, two Hatake Kakashis in one village, one a celibate space monk, was a horrible idea. Not to mention that Obito would have to somehow split his time between one genin trio and the other without making it seem weird, but…
He was smiling as he thought about it.
It was a ridiculous fantasy. For all he knew, no matter how eerily convincing they were, they really were just illusions that the sharingan hadn't managed to pierce through yet. Though, the fact that the mangekyo sharingan hadn't made a difference seemed like damning evidence in their favor.
Kakashi coughed suddenly, his eyes fluttering for a moment, but just as soon he caught his breath and seemed to return to sleep. Before he faded fully, though, he breathed out a single word, "Dogbah."
Dogbah. Obito knew that word, where did he know that word from?
Kakashi forced his eyes open, turned his head minutely towards Obito, and rasped out, "Practically no one's ever heard of it. It's just one giant swamp with plenty of natural cover, abandoned by any sentient race you've ever heard of for more palatable worlds. No Separatists, no Stormtroopers… Rin and I will go to Dogbah."
His eyes closed then and returned to sleep. Obito just quietly watched him.
Dogbah, he remembered now, was an obscure swamp planet just like Kakashi had said.
However, what Kakashi had forgotten to mention was that Dogbah also housed a great natural reservoir of the Force.
Dogbah would have been an excellent place to look for Obito's answer if only Kakashi hadn't mentioned it.
Anakin didn't think he had ever been to Alderaan.
The war had been fought closer to the edge of the republic. Generally, on planets torn between the separatist cause and remaining within the republic. While Grievous had brought the Armada to Coruscant in a last-ditch effort to win the war, he had never had the forces required to lay siege to the core systems or to hold them. He'd only had enough to kidnap the chancellor, and even that he had ultimately failed at.
Failed, when it turned out one rogue, misinformed, idiot Jedi could have done the trick.
No, the window in which Anakin might have been to Alderaan was in those years before the war had begun, when he was Obi-Wan's padawan. While they'd been all over the galaxy then, on the kinds of missions Jedi took before becoming mired in war, he did not think they had ever been to Alderaan.
It was a very pretty world, even from orbit.
A tranquil atmosphere of swirling clouds, great blue oceans, green and white landmasses, the kind of planet he remembered from the cheap holos he and Lee used to stream from local satellites. They'd never paid for the reception themselves, of course, always slicing access from well-to-do slave owners with easy passwords. The quality was atrocious, hardly worth watching, but he remembered that so many of the stories were set on beautiful, bright, blue worlds. Never desert planets like Tatooine.
Lee had always complained about that; she felt most of the holos were trite and boring, all about rich people in rich worlds with rich people problems. She was right, but she was missing the point. Holos were all about showing you the things you wanted to have.
So, just as Naboo was a beautiful planet, so too was Alderaan. Just looking at it, you'd have no idea that there was a war going on out there or that the chancellor had just been assassinated.
Well, if you were looking at the planet. Looking at the port traffic, it was another story.
Anakin crossed his arms with a thoughtful frown, cutting the power as he took his hands off the controls of his stolen ship, allowing inertia to carry him closer and closer into orbit and his inevitable descent.
For obvious reasons, Anakin wasn't going to be landing in a port.
First, thanks to war propaganda and his recent rescue of the chancellor, Anakin was one of the most easily recognized Jedi in the galaxy.
Personally, Anakin had always thought Bail Organa, Alderaan's senator and king, was a stick in the mud, overly conservative, and unduly suspicious of Chancellor Palpatine. He was a close friend of Padmé's, so Anakin had always held his tongue, but he would have thought that if anyone was celebrating Palpatine's sudden demise at the hands of the Jedi, it'd be Organa.
Maybe Organa had recognized the error of his ways, realized that perhaps the Jedi Order really could be corrupt or else that not liking Palpatine didn't justify his execution. More likely, Anakin thought with a grimace, the man recognized that even a king did not define a nation. Organa could dislike Palpatine all he liked, but he was still a republican at heart and would abide by the republic's laws.
Even if that law currently dictated that he shoot any Jedi on sight.
Which, unfortunately, included Anakin Skywalker.
The second reason was that the ports were a kriffing mess. You had hundreds of thousands of ships attempting to evacuate towards the outer rim, fearful of what the assassination of a man who had been in power for thirteen years, through the entire civil war, would mean for the republic. You also had hundreds of thousands of ships flooding in for much the same reason; Dooku was dead and the separatist forces were collapsing, with Grievous being hunted down by Obi-Wan (if, in fact, Obi-Wan was still even alive). The republic might be in a state of chaos, its own Jedi generals might be traitors to the state, but it still had an army in the clone troopers.
If Anakin wanted to do things the legal way and enter the queue for port, then he'd be waiting out here for weeks.
Third, Anakin wasn't quite sure where Obito was. Well, he wasn't hanging out at any major port, that was obvious. That man, Haruki, had said something about the mountains, but had also said something about Obito quickly changing locations. Hatake and Nohara had closed in on him, or something, which forced him to keep relocating.
He'd also, Anakin remembered vaguely, said something about contacting Anakin when he was in orbit for more specific directions. How he was going to do that was beyond Anakin. The ship was stolen, and Anakin hadn't exactly given out his comm information to the guy.
Still, Anakin was now in orbit and in need of direction.
He shifted in his seat, suddenly uncomfortable. Why was he doing this again?
Well, revenge, clearly. Revenge and honor and duty. Obito Uchiha, a lackluster padawan learner that no one had believed in, had pulled a fast one on the Jedi Order, the republic, Anakin, and his sister. Anakin not only wanted revenge, but he wanted to find and save his sister and prevent anything else Obito might have up his sleeve.
It perhaps wasn't your typical Jedi cause, as the Jedi Order had never been all that supportive of vengeance, but Anakin believed it was a noble one.
Still, he'd left Padmé to that man. Anakin still believed she was safe in his protection, perhaps safer than if Anakin himself had tried to find her, but it still bothered him. He could have seen to Padmé first, even if it meant giving Obito a head start.
"Your wife is safe."
Anakin started, jumping out of his seat and turning towards the voice where, out of nowhere, the golden man was sitting in the copilot's seat staring out towards Alderaan with a pensive expression.
Anakin cursed, then shouted, "Have you always been sitting there?!"
The man turned his head to consider Anakin, a small, amused smile on his lips. "In a manner of speaking."
Anakin breathed out, forcing his heart to calm, telling himself it wasn't all that important. "What was that about Padmé?"
"She's safe," the man repeated. "I escorted her back to Naboo."
"And is she happy about that?" Anakin asked in disbelief. If he knew Padmé, and he certainly knew Padmé, she'd be anything but willing to leave Coruscant in a time of crisis like this.
"All traffic in and out of Coruscant ports has been halted," the man answered calmly. "Only those in unsanctioned ships are getting into and out of the planet now."
Anakin frowned. Padmé had once, after all, gotten through a Trade Federation blockade twice when she was only fourteen. Having to enter through unsanctioned means, weeks away from giving birth, was hardly going to stop her.
"I am also keeping an eye on her and keeping her busy," the man assured him. "Padmé will not leave Naboo."
"You're keeping an eye on her?" Anakin questioned dully, giving the man a meaningful look.
"Some of us can be in two places at once, Anakin Skywalker," the man returned just as dully. "I merely wanted to assure you that I had not forgotten my promise."
"Well, thank you," Anakin offered lamely, not quite sure what else to say, but the man either didn't notice how awkward that was or else didn't care.
Instead, he deftly punched coordinates into the autopilot console and began shifting the levers to prepare for landing.
Anakin swore and swiftly doublechecked the jamming signal he'd been sending out—still going strong, which meant he was still very likely off Alderaan radar. "Whoa, slow down a bit."
"The local authorities will not detect you," the man assured him offhand. "They are already overwhelmed with more easily detected ships."
"I figured—" Anakin said, because, after all, Obito Uchiha had managed to sneak through in the chaos of Grievous' attack on Coruscant.
The man, however, spoke over Anakin, "As for Obito, we are fortunate in that he decided to take pity on Kakashi Hatake and Rin Nohara. His position is stable and easily detected. You will have a very small window, while he is sleeping, in which to attack him."
"While he's sleeping?" Anakin asked, eyebrows raising despite himself.
The man, Haruki, turned towards Anakin looking very serious. "If you do not catch him off guard, Obito Uchiha will escape, and I believe he is not so sentimental that he will return even for his former friends. You will have only this one chance."
In other words: do not blow it.
Anakin frowned but took hold of the controls as they started to descend. Just as Haruki had promised, they were heading high into the mountains. Worse, they were heading into what looked like the beginnings of a snowstorm. Not exactly great landing material, but Anakin supposed he would have to make do.
As they moved down through the thick clouds, the ship burning against the atmosphere, Anakin asked, "How does he do that, anyway?"
Anakin, after all, had been the one to nearly catch him. He'd had the bastard in his hands, his lightsaber against the boy's neck, and then he'd somehow disappeared into thin air. If he'd been an illusion, he would have been insubstantial to begin with, and if his disappearing had been the mind trick then Anakin's lightsaber would have cut right through him.
Haruki was silent for a moment before responding, "Obito Uchiha is heir to powers I have no understanding of."
"You mean it was an ability from the dark side of the Force?" Anakin asked, as that's what he and everyone else he knew had assumed. The dark side, it was always said, was the path to many unknown and unnatural abilities.
"No," Haruki said shortly, but didn't expand. Instead, together with Anakin, he guided the ship to a surprisingly soft and easy landing.
Anakin quickly exited the ship, Haruki following just behind with soft, graceful steps. When he exited, Haruki pointed up towards a cavern just visible through the snowfall. "There, that one."
"That one?" Anakin asked. There was no sign of life, no fire or light coming from inside.
As if reading his mind, the man noted, "Obito Uchiha is very careful; he would not give himself away so easily."
Anakin reached out and was soon able to sense two vaguely familiar Force signatures, Hatake and Nohara. Obito was absent, but he could simply be blocking himself off from the Force. Chances were, if Hatake and Nohara were there then Obito was nearby or else could easily be found.
Anakin silently began making his way up the mountainside. He entered the cave where, just as Haruki had promised, he found Rin Nohara, Kakashi Hatake, and Obito Uchiha. Hatake looked as if he'd been gravely injured, lying in the center with Nohara slumped nearby.
He must have been very close to death if they'd thought running to Obito Uchiha for sanctuary was a good idea.
Obito Uchiha was some distance from them, leaning against a wall, eyes closed and breathing evenly. Even in his sleep, his hand was loosely curled around his lightsaber.
Anakin ignited his lightsaber.
At the sound Obito's eyes flew open, and he rolled to his feet, igniting his own lightsaber.
Nohara started awake, sat upright, and her eyes locked on Obito. "Obito!"
Obito didn't even spare her a glance. Instead, he glared across at Anakin.
The cavern wasn't ideal for fighting; it was far too narrow, and Anakin would prefer if innocents like Nohara and Hatake weren't right in the middle of it. However, Anakin was a much better swordsman than Obito ever had been, and in close confines like these, Obito would have less of a chance to escape.
Without a word Anakin lunged forward, forcing Obito to parry and go on the defensive. They moved further back into the cavern, towards the wall on the lefthand side. As Anakin had suspected, Obito's swordsmanship had not improved. He was decent, but only ever decent, and had no natural talent for the saber.
Once Anakin had him backed against that wall the fight would be his.
Before Obito could stumble back into it, though, he became transparent. It wasn't like before—he didn't disappear entirely, the outline of his form was still visible if translucent, but Anakin's lightsaber went right through him. As inertia pulled Anakin forward, he found himself on the opposite side of a suddenly solid Obito, now pressing Anakin against the wall with his lightsaber.
"Skywalker," Obito said with a pleasant smile, "Lovely to see you. Still trying to kill me then?"
Digging into the Force, Anakin managed to throw Obito backwards, but where he should have crashed to the floor Obito disappeared into thin air again. Anakin stumbled forward, holding his lightsaber at the ready, and only just managed to parry as Obito appeared behind him.
"Don't you have better things to do with your time?" Obito asked. "Rumor has it the Jedi Order has launched a coup."
Anakin barked out a laugh as he struck out at Obito who, infuriatingly, disappeared into thin air once again. "Don't pretend you don't know all about that!"
Once again Anakin just managed to block Obito's blade as he reappeared. "How would I know anything about it? I've been hanging out in caves for the past week. I only heard because Kakashi and Rin were polite enough to tell me."
"I meant," Anakin hissed out, "That I know you're the one who was behind it."
And this, at last, seemed to distract Obito enough for Anakin to push forward. Anakin moved swiftly for the opening. "I know you put Lee up to it!"
Unfortunately, before Anakin could make contact, Obito disappeared again, reappearing at the far end of the cave, far outside Anakin's reach. He looked across at Anakin dully, looking extremely unimpressed. "Are you serious? Am I being blamed for—Of course I am, why am I even surprised?"
"His eyes!" Out of nowhere, Haruki suddenly appeared next to Anakin, pointing towards Obito. "It's his eyes, Anakin! Get rid of his eyes!"
Obito's eyes first widened, then narrowed, and his stance changed. If he had been merely toying with Anakin then he certainly wasn't now. Obito's eyes flickered from Anakin, to Haruki, and back again.
As Anakin lunged forward, instead of preparing a defensive position, Obito gave him a shark-like grin.
"Better luck next time, Skywalker," he said with a slight wave.
Then, in the blink of an eye, he was gone.
Anakin panted, keeping his lightsaber raised, waiting for the next blow. It didn't come, Obito did not return. He looked back around the cave. There was nothing in here, nothing Obito would need to come back for, only the man Haruki, Rin Nohara, and the injured Kakashi Hatake.
Rin was looking up at Anakin with dark, wary eyes.
"He was going to kill you sooner or later," Anakin bit out, but Rin said nothing, simply turned back to Kakashi. It was easy to see that she didn't agree, which was a pity, as it meant she and Hatake would all too soon wind up dead.
And here he'd thought she and Hatake had had the nerve to do what needed to be done.
Anakin slowly deactivated his lightsaber and moved it back into his holster. Obito would wait a while longer yet. He'd probably try to do to Anakin what Anakin had done to him, ambush him while he was sleeping and kill him before Anakin could fight back.
Well, Anakin would be ready for him.
Anakin turned to look at Haruki. "Where's he now?"
"Nowhere," Haruki said dully.
The man was glaring out where Obito had last been standing, as if just by scowling hard enough Obito might reappear.
"What do you mean?" Anakin pressed, but Haruki's scowl simply deepened.
"Obito Uchiha is nowhere. He has transported himself into nothingness, in between the atoms of everything that exists, far beyond my reach." Haruki slowly, eyes burning, turned to glare at Anakin. "You had him, you had him twice, and you lost him."
"What was I supposed to—"
"He is one half-baked swordsman, he relies on nothing but cheap tricks and guile, and you, the greatest Jedi who has ever lived, lost him," Haruki interjected.
"I'll get him next time," Anakin bit out, anger causing his face to flush. "It won't happen again, I—"
"No, you won't," Haruki corrected with a sigh. "You'll try again, and he'll pull the same trick. Whenever you get too close, he'll disappear, and then he'll catch you unawares and the next time or the time after that he will kill you. He's far beyond your capabilities."
Haruki stood and moved to the cavern's entrance, staring down the mountainside and into the valleys below, the towns and cities obscured by the now thickly falling snow. "I can track him as much as I like. Send him Qui-Gon Jinn, you, or old friends, and it won't matter. I can track him, but I cannot catch him."
Anakin clenched and unclenched his fist, tried not to notice how Rin Nohara seemed almost relieved by that. "Then am I just supposed to let him go?"
For a moment Haruki didn't answer, just kept staring out of the cave, and then slowly he said, "He will return eventually, perhaps not here, but somewhere."
"I must simply make certain that there is nowhere, no patch of earth, for him to return to," Haruki continued, "Surely his trick, whatever it is, cannot extend far enough to escape the planet's gravity well."
At once Haruki disappeared, faded into nothing more than a puff of smoke. Anakin moved towards where he had been standing, waved his hand through the empty air, but nothing was there. Before he could comment on it, he winced and had to shield his eyes.
Outside of the cave, out there in the distant horizon, a bright light had suddenly flashed into being. With every second it grew brighter and brighter, until it was outshining Alderaan's sun.
"What is that?!" Rin cried out, but Anakin couldn't look at her, he'd forced his eyes closed for fear of going blind.
There was a noise in the air, a high-pitched ringing, as if Anakin had hit his head. Only, as the light grew brighter it seemed to grow louder and louder.
Over the noise he heard something, some rustling, Rin's voice. "Obito!"
And then muffled cries as both Hatake and Nohara's Force signatures suddenly winked out. Anakin barely had time to notice, reaching out and stumbling towards where they'd last been, because a hand pulled on the back of his robes.
"Waste not want not, I suppose," Haruki's voice whispered in his ear, and then Anakin was gone too, pulled through time and space away from Alderaan.
As for Alderaan, a million voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.
Author's Note: It's not a Star Wars fic if you don't quote Darth Plagueis then blow up Alderaan.
Thanks to GlassGirlCeci for the wonderful job betaing the chapter. Thanks to readers and reviewers, reviews are much appreciated.
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, Star Wars, or Harry Potter