Another week, another chapter!
E3 was alright, but the confirmation that Metroid Dread was a real thing after like fifteen years of rumors was kind of awesome. The rest of the announcements were kind of meh, though.
Anyways, enough about that, without further ado, two more to go!
Chapter 98: From Out of a Dream
Naruto took stock of the situation about as quickly as he felt he could be expected to as the dust settled around him, coughing on the particles that hung in the air.
Beside him, still panting horribly, was the terribly injured Nagato, who seemed like he was very close to being on his last legs. Konan supported him from below, helping him out of the machine that encased his body, and Jiraiya assisted as best he could as well, adjusting the man's positioning as he bit down on his bottom lip, blood running down his face. Naruto wasn't even sure that Jiraiya was conscious of what he was doing, or if him helping the two was simply a reaction to everything that'd just happened, to the dreadful situation they now faced.
Light trickled in from the hole that the Gedo Statue's massive hand had made in the 'tree' around them, illuminating them as the last bits of silt and smoke fell to the forest floor below them once more.
And they got their first good look at what they were dealing with.
A massive figure, one that, while shorter than the Gedo statue that'd been in its place before in terms of height, still eclipsed anything Naruto had ever seen in length. It was more than five times the size of the Nine-Tailed Fox, and, realistically, that was heavily lowballing it. The tails that swirled behind it, swinging from side to side likely on instinct more than anything, rose so high in the sky that they blotted out the sun itself.
And then, he got his first good look at the thing's head. It turned in their direction, it's single, beady Rinnegan-like eye staring, oddly enough, right at him. He supposed it might make sense that it could sense the Nine-Tails within him, could tell a piece of itself was contained within his breast. And then, as if deciding it didn't much like that at all, it took a single, lumbering step towards them all.
Its massive hands crushed entire sections of the forest beneath it, crunching the tall and proud barks like they were twigs. The ground shook, the 'tree' they stood within swaying, bowing in multiple places.
He swallowed nervously. Then did so again.
There really didn't seem to be much else to do.
Because… How… How were they meant to fight something like that? How were they supposed to honestly raise their weapons in an attempt to take that monster on!? How could he–
His eyes widened as he focused in on his head space and turned to see the Nine-Tailed fox staring down at him annoyedly.
"You're giving up here?"
The raw simplicity of that statement, the fact of what he'd been trying to do being presented in front of him so callously… it shook him. He swung his head from side to side, took a deep breath, and smacked himself on both cheeks, mentally resetting himself as he looked back up at the Nine-Tails now smug expression.
"Not a damned chance!"
"That's better." The great beast nodded sagely, looking up as if staring out at the real world – and the Ten-Tails – beyond. "That things tough, but it's dumb as a brick. It doesn't have a consciousness like one of us. It follows its instincts, and nothing more. You can outsmart it. Focus on that first of all."
He nodded his head, not allowing himself to fall victim to his fear any longer.
"Will do. Anything else I should carry with me to tell the others?"
"Nah, not really. Other than to hit it with everything you've got."
He nodded his head, before a small kernel of doubt wormed its way through his psyche, and he found himself voicing a concern eating away at his mind.
"Do you honestly think we can beat this thing?"
"No, not really."
He felt rather terribly indignant as he turned back towards the Nine-Tails, only to see the great beast erupting with laughter at his sorry expression.
"But hell, that certainly hasn't stopped any of you all before. Go. Find a way, and win."
He opened his mouth to say something, but found it caught at the back of his throat. Instead, he offered all he could.
The monstrous Nine-Tailed Fox, the beast that'd razed his home, tormented him for all his life, both directly and indirectly, and been a hindrance to him for nearly every waking moment, offered back a sneer.
"Yeah, well… don't you dare die now, kid."
He nodded as he recentered himself, tuning back into the real world.
He was immediately face-to-face with the Ten-Tailed-Beasts massive eye, which stared right at him, as if trying to decide whether he was a subject of interest, or a snack.
As it decided on the latter, he found himself screaming, and jumping back, narrowly avoided its hulking, clawed hand, which crushed the half of the 'tree' he'd been rooted on and sent the other three inhabitants flying in the opposite direction.
He spared a brief glance for them, just to see if they were all right, and found Konan flying the other two to a safe landing with angelic wings made of paper.
Her power seemed rather versatile; he was glad he didn't have to fight her anymore.
He was less glad that the opponent he'd indirectly traded her for was a kilometer long demon that was currently trying to eat him, but hey, he supposed, in a rather lucklessly candid way, that beggars could not be choosers.
He really wished he could be about now.
Naruto came to two realizations a moment or so later as the Ten-Tails trudged towards him, utterly eviscerating the landscape below it. One was that this thing was a helluva' lot faster than he would've given it credit for. It easily kept pace with him, and he got the feeling it was still in the 'inspecting' phase, instead of the 'trying to kill' phase.
Two was that, even in that 'inspecting' phase, with it regarding him as nothing more than something intriguing, the Ten-Tailed Beast was still more dangerous to him than any opponent he'd ever faced in his life.
Every footfall would be enough to crush his entire body. Any of those razor-sharp teeth in its mouth could cleave him clean in two. And a single flick of one of its tails, and he'd be launched into the nearest tree somewhere around half the speed of sound and become a Naruto-colored splatter on its bark.
He looked above him just as a shadow was cast over him and saw that the first of the many horrible fates that'd been running around in his mind was about to come to pass, for the great creatures clawed extremity hung ominously above him, threatening to crush him without further delay.
Or, well, at least, that's what he'd thought.
Just as it was about to flatten him into a Naruto pancake, a huge toad charged into it, knocking the limb back and forcing the creature off balance. Two more toads took advantage of the creatures confusion, one striking it with its gigantic sasumata, and the other cutting down on its back with twin blades, before both jumped back in retreat as the Ten-Tails let out a bellowing shriek.
The sound was high and loud enough to make him grab at his head, trying to keep himself steady past the sonic attack, but he was gripped around the waist and pulled back from the epicenter, landing in a heap some distance away. It was only after a moment of gathering his bearings that he realized they were atop Gamabunta, the toad who'd saved his life earlier, beside a few panting figures, who all looked like they'd had quite a day already.
Haku, Ino, Kakashi, Hinata, Fu, Tenten, Kabuto, Itachi, Anko, Zaku, Kin, Dosu, Sasuke, and Sakura stared at him, all looking varying degrees of exhausted.
"Sup, Naruto." Sakura regarded him, panting horrendously as she brought her plant-like tendrils, which she'd used to pull him away from the Ten-Tails, back close to her. "Where's Master Jiraiya?"
"Sakura…" He breathed out in relief. "He's safe. With Pain and Konan, I think they're on our side now. And… Thank you. You pretty much saved my life."
"Eh, it happens." She smirked, before turning back towards some of the other figures standing atop Gamabunta's back. "Alright, so… What's the plan, exactly?"
"Good question, Sakura." Kakashi spoke, sighing horribly. "As much as I'd like to say we can handle this… well, we might not be able to conventionally. You saw those hits the toads struck on that thing's body. both should've been enough to at least wound it, but neither even managed to pierce its skin."
"The way you say conventionally," Anko brought up, rubbing her chin as she looked at Kakashi. "Tells me you have an idea, right?"
"An idea, yes. It's not a particularly great idea, but it is… something."
"Define something, please." Dosu deadpanned, staring at the Ten-Tails in the distance, which sparred with the other two toads in the same manner he felt a cat might've pawed at a mouse it'd found trapped in a corner. "Because, no offense, but I don't see how anything is going to beat that!"
"Well, it's rather simple," Kakashi explained, biting down on his bottom lip. "From this distance I can use Kamui to absorb it."
Naruto wasn't the only one who had an immediate problem with that plan.
"Not a chance." Sasuke interrupted before the man could get any further. "You nearly kill yourself every time you use it on small objects, are you honestly suggesting that you could handle absorbing the entire Ten-Tails into Kamui!? Really?"
Kakashi shook his head. "I don't know if we have the luxury of worrying about our lives right now. This may come down to whomever is willing to give what they can for the world. If my life can be used to stop this thing's rampage before it can destroy my home, then I'll do it, end of story."
All three members of Team 7 recoiled at the truth of the man's words. At the end of the day, he might've been right.
Could they truly defeat this thing any other way? If the blades of those massive toads, each the size of the things fingernails, couldn't cut into it… What hope did they have of wounding it in any way?
"And don't worry so much, I've certainly survived worse than this," Kakashi smirked their way as he stepped forward, and placed his hands in front of his eyes in a 'tiger' seal, preparing to activate his Mangekyou. "I'll make it. Well, you'll have to support me for the rest of the fight, because I'll be knocked out on the ground, but… I'll make it."
Naruto laughed… no, he tried to laugh, but…
It wasn't coming to him.
This wasn't very funny. Not at all.
Because Kakashi was lying.
After a few moments, the Ten-Tails finally succeeded in shaking off the two toads, knocking both of them back and to the forest floor. It roared in superiority, before turning towards the only remaining toad, Gamabunta, who they were all stood upon.
"Any time would be great, Brat!" Gamabunta shouted as he backpedaled as the calamity approached them.
Kakashi nodded his head, focusing hard. A second later, a massive, spiraling aura began effecting the Ten-Tails' body, before the beast let out a small shriek, as if unexpectedly being affected by something. He felt like cheering as it was slowly absorbed until there was almost nothing of it left, simply a small ball floating in the air remaining of it.
"He did it!" Fu screamed excitedly.
"Yo!" He heard Zaku shout out excitedly. "Nice job, Kakashi!"
Naruto was about to offer his own congratulations, well, up until he turned to look, and saw that Kakashi's face was far from satisfied.
No, the man looked… Frightened.
"That… that wasn't me."
A chill ran up his spine as he turned his frightful gaze towards the ball hanging in the distance. It hadn't occurred to him to check it before, but now, well, he had been standing still for quite a while, so he balanced out the Nine-Tails chakra hanging about him with the Natural energy of his surroundings, activating Indigo Sage Mode.
For good measure, he sent out a few clones to act as reserve energy, and then peaked at this newfound orb.
It was scaly, and pure white. It looked almost as if it were an egg if he were being honest.
No sooner had he thought that than did a hand jut out of the side of it, sending a piece of the outer shell spiraling down to the forest beneath them. Said limb immediately went about breaking the rest of itself out of its prison, ripping chunks of the shell away and, finally, stepping out of into the open air.
The creature that emerged was neither entirely Obito Uchiha, nor Black Zetsu. It was, in essence, similar to how it'd been before. Naruto got the feeling that, despite everything going on with what'd just happened, Zetsu was still the one in control.
But they were undoubtedly changed.
Obito's skin was an almost pale white, with scales running up his entire body. White spines jutted out from his back, and he gave off an almost alien air, one that was not at all hindered by the form of Black Zetsu still attached to his body.
Even Zetsu had not escaped some changes, however. His body, too, or, well, that which overlapped with Obito's own, was no longer entirely black. Now, it oscillated in a checkerboard-like pattern, with white scales covering pieces and parts of him. still… oddly enough, they weren't moving. Instead, they stood entirely still.
It was as he was taking in their appearances further that Gamabunta gave a small shake of his body, jostling them all slightly.
"Off, you all."
"What!?" He heard Kabuto of all people raise his voice. "Why!?"
"Because he's not moving for the moment. I want to try getting a good shot in before my summoning contract is up. I can't risk all of you in case it's a bait, though."
Naruto found himself agreeing with the toad, and so he hopped off the great beasts back, as did the rest of them, as he charged forward, bringing his sword to bare, and slashing downwards at the floating duo.
His blade snapped in twain the moment it struck the things outstretched hand, and then, in the flash of a moment…
Gamabunta's entire right side disappeared, as if it had been deleted from his body instantaneously.
"BUNTA!" He heard Jiraiya shout from somewhere further in the forest and felt his own twinge of guilt as he watched the great toad fall back, groaning in pain as it unsummoned itself. He'd likely live, but…
His right arm, and a good majority of the muscle and fat around it, had been obliterated in the span of a millisecond.
"Hah… hah… hah…"
He looked up towards the source of that infernal laughter, and saw that Black Zetsu was finally speaking, though still clutching at his head as if it ached horrendously.
"My apologies for ruining your perfect little plan, there, but I wasn't planning on giving the wondrous 'Copy Ninja' a chance to absorb the perfect being with Kamui. I could bring it back out afterwards, but it would cost a good half of even my chakra to move something so massive. Instead, I'll speed this up a bit. I can absorb it, even if it is still in its weaker first form. Such a thing should not matter, not when you all are so weak that you could not even stand against it on its own."
Naruto swallowed on nothing as he instinctively took a step back, his body recognizing the danger he was under.
Before he could process exactly what was happening, Black Zetsu was in front of him, as if he'd quite literally blinked into existence there. He reached out towards Naruto, and for a moment, he assumed that was it. This was where his tale would end, broken in twain by some brutally overpowered bastard with a god complex and mommy issues.
Instead, mere milliseconds before Black Zetsu's hand would have touched his chest, the man froze, and his body shook terribly. He reached for his head once more, which gave Naruto the chance to rear back, and absolutely clobber the Ten-Tails Jinchuuriki with Frog Kumite. The blow sent the man, as powerful as he was, through at least two trees before he was embedded in the earth.
"What the hell… he froze up!?" He heard Kin speak confusedly. "Is he…"
"Naruto!" Hinata and Fu rushed to his sides. "Are you alright!?"
"Fine!" He stressed, looking down at his body and visually confirming that for himself. "Y-Yeah, I'm fine. Really."
The Hyuga nodded, and she activated her Byakugan as she stared at the spot he'd launched Black Zetsu into.
"He's back up. He's coming toward us."
They all nodded. He refreshed his Indigo Sage Mode by popping one of his assortment of clones, and he watched as Kakashi finally truly activated his Mangekyou Sharingan. Sasuke did the same, and Sakura struck the ground with her hands, causing vines and roots to shoot up and bob like tentacles. Everyone else took their own combat stances as Black Zetsu finally emerged from the wood, laughing a bit scratchily, despite the obvious mark on his face, which was, as it seemed, already beginning to heal.
"You know, Nine-Tailed Kid, that rather hurt." Naruto found himself sneering at the man's raw arrogance, even if he couldn't much fault him for it, as invincible as he seemed. "Taking advantage of my moment of weakness… how cruel of you."
None of them spoke, instead, they merely surrounded the man slowly, encircling him over the course of his next words.
"I must say, though…. It's rather difficult to reign in this much power, even for me." Black Zetsu elucidated as he looked down at Obito's hands. "Not like I have a choice, though. Gathering chakra in this form is necessary. Mother's revival hinges on me being able to amass enough. Even if this form is weaker than it would be with the full Tailed Beasts inside of it, and without allowing the Ten-Tails' to fully evolve… well, it'll do, I believe, in taking you all down."
It was as Black Zetsu spoke those words that a massive Rasengan struck him from behind, utterly eviscerating the earth beneath him.
"Take that, you bastard!" Jiraiya, who'd just arrived from out of the wood behind them, snarled.
Naruto had never seen his master so obviously angry, though he couldn't at all blame the man, knowing what Zetsu had done to the pupil he'd only just regained, ripping out his eye and leaving him for dead, and towards the toad he had a real bond with, deleting a good portion of his right side.
Jiraiya was blown back mere seconds later, gasping as he landed, his eyes wide as he stared at the unbothered form of Black Zetsu, who stared at him almost annoyedly.
"I'd prefer if you didn't interrupt me while I was talking, thank you."
At then, with no fanfare at all, Black Zetsu shot into action.
One thing they all learned very quickly was that Black Zetsu was far faster than he had any right to be. He made for Itachi first, perhaps considering him the biggest threat of them all in a straight fight, which Naruto couldn't argue with much.
Luckily, Itachi's Susanoo was just strong enough to handle a singular hit from Black Zetsu's hand, which swiped away at its chakra-shell like it was paper, eradicating the guardian he'd set up and nearly managing a strike on the man inside if not for Sasuke, who blitzed him from behind and backed up his brother.
Black Zetsu was faster, however, easily managing to catch Sasuke's sword and snap the length in twain, before rounding back and trying to land a kick on his best friend that the teen just barely ducked beneath, the enhanced sight of the Mangekyou Sharingan likely saving his life.
"Taijutsu's out!" Sasuke screamed, and Naruto could see why, given that every time they'd tried to hit the man with weapons, they'd simply broken the moment he touched them.
Naruto recognized that as well, but…
Earlier, he'd managed a strike on Black Zetsu's body.
How had he…
Kakashi and Jiraiya rose up on opposite sides of Black Zetsu while he was distracted and fired twin fireball's at him from both sides. Instead of moving, Black Zetsu merely took them upon his skin, allowing the fire to wash over him as he gripped at his head, seemingly still getting used to controlling the power now at his disposal.
"Ninjutsu doesn't work on him either!" Jiraiya shot out. "Shit…"
And it was then that he put together just exactly what they'd have to do.
"I think I have his weakness!" He shouted, turning towards Sakura, and giving her a firm nod. "Sakura, bind him!"
The girl nodded as she slammed her hands down on the ground below her. Roots and vines shot out, wrapping themselves around Black Zetsu's limbs and holding him tightly.
Instead of merely breaking out of them, like Naruto had suspected he might, or canceling them out entirely via his body alone… Black Zetsu focused, snapping each individual one not with the same unforeseen power he'd been using thus far…
But with muscular strength alone.
"That's it! Senjutsu! He can't cancel out Senjutsu! When I hit him with my Frog Kumite earlier, and just now, when Sakura used her natural tendrils, he had to physically do something about both. Mine left a wound," He looked up at Black Zetsu's body, where, sure enough, tiny pores on the man's body from where the thorns of Sakura's tendrils had embedded themselves in his skin were still healing. "And so did Sakura's!"
"Is that so!?" Jiraiya spoke, smirking somewhat as he stared at Black Zetsu, before clapping his hands together, biting his thumb, and slamming his hand down on the ground. "Summoning Jutsu!"
From out of the ensuing blast of smoke came two figures Naruto recognized. Fukasaku and Shima, who immediately turned to Jiraiya. They whispered some things to one another, before the two toads nodded, and latched themselves onto Jiraiya's shoulders.
"Buy me some time, you guys!"
They all nodded as they sprang into action.
Naruto acted first, using some Sage Mode clones (alongside Frog Kumite) to try and duel Black Zetsu. He didn't dare approach himself, not when he'd seen how easily the man, if Black Zetsu could even be called that anymore, had annihilated Gamabunta before.
His doppelganger's met with a similar fate, the few of them being blown away before Naruto could so much as blink. Anko and Kakashi threw in Senbon and Kunai, which clattered uselessly to Black Zetsu's feet, but at least kept him distracted from noticing the cracking ground beneath him as a few new roots and vines grew up around him, cutting into his flesh once more before he spun in place, breaking the plant fibers, and letting off a wave of energy to push them all back.
Naruto got up and sprung back into action, charging up a Sage Mode Rasengan. He passed it to the clone beside him, and had it charge in with it just as the Sound Trio fired off their own little plan.
Kin launched a ring of eight senbon with bells on the ends at Zetsu's feet, immediately creating a harsh, but melodic sound that had Naruto wanting to lay down and sleep. Luckily, he had the forethought to release the Genjutsu being placed upon him before it could impact him any further.
Zaku and Dosu followed up on their allies attack, firing off a 'Great Breakthrough' and a sound-based attack from the latter's gauntlet, which rent the air, and seemed to give them a moment to work with as Black Zetsu oscillated.
His clone jumped into the air and tried to slam the Rasengan into Black Zetsu's chest. It failed, however, on account of being dissipated by a single strike of the man's hand, which sent a blast wave of air towards it that mowed right through its chest.
Itachi and Kabuto acted next, the former apparently having overcome his Susanoo's breaking long enough to duck underneath one of Black Zetsu's attacks. Kabuto attacked first, buying space with the help of Sakura's vines, which were continuously keeping Black Zetsu as busy as they could (likely also keeping all of them alive by virtue of that) and acting as a distraction for Itachi. Naruto watched as his Mangekyou Sharingan, the one in his right eye, spun into action.
If he wasn't mistaken, that was Shisui's.
Instead of instantly ending the fight, like Naruto had hoped that Jutsu would magically accomplish, Black Zetsu merely shook his head, laughing somewhat.
"You thought something like that would work on me!?"
Itachi's face rather effectively communicated the exact emotion that both he, along with every other member of their group, seemed to be feeling in that moment, which he couldn't help but define as 'well I had certainly hoped it would'.
Itachi's Susanoo was likely the only thing that saved him from meeting an untimely death, though a good majority of it was sheared away, just as before. Kabuto dodged back out as well, opening space, once more, for both he and Sakura to move inwards.
Well, his clones and her tendrils, but it counted for something.
In that moment, a good fifty or so White Zetsu emerged from the treeline near them, and they flinched somewhat at being face to face with an armed force that they would have to deal with now as well.
Those who couldn't do much versus Black Zetsu moved to attack that force; Sasuke, Kabuto, Anko, Fu, Hinata, Ino, and Haku all took on the waves approaching them.
Sasuke fought with his shattered sword as well, trying to handle a larger majority than the others. Haku's Flash Frost shattered a good fifteen of the Zetsu, though their own allies had to keep a wide berth around him, lest they be caught in the icy winds. Fu utilized her terribly strong punches and kicks, knocking the Zetsu around, and both Hinata and Ino played support with their respective families Jutsu's.
Naruto focused back in on his own fight as Black Zetsu moved, striking against Kakashi, and utterly annihilating him. Naruto tensed for but a moment before the log that'd been broken revealed itself, and Kakashi rose from out of the ground, trying to strike up at him.
Black Zetsu looked to answer, but just as it seemed like he'd take Kakashi's head, he instead punched himself clean in the face.
All of their eyes widened, even as he noticed Itachi of all people with a tiny, almost unnoticeable smile on his face.
"Ah… so Kotoamatsukami affected me after all."
"Yes. I believe it did." Itachi said, sounding awfully smug about it.
All of them knew that would only work the one time, but still, Naruto couldn't deny the raising of their morale that Black Zetsu socking himself in the jaw had brought them. He'd never have anticipated Itachi of all people being the type to use such a… well…
It was then that an extra force of White Zetsu arrived, far more than before, likely numbering in the couple hundreds. Naruto initially thought them manageable, until he realized that their own forces, the six who'd held the Zetsu back, had utilized their strongest techniques to get rid of the previous force quickly, in order to get back to helping them out. Now… faced with a number of Zetsu nearly ten times as large…
They were in trouble.
Luckily, just as he was about to break off himself to assist, a massive blow eviscerated the ground beneath the Zetsu, causing several to fall into cracks in the earth. The source of said strike walked out towards them, smiling confidently, if not a little exhaustedly, as she faced them all.
"Everyone!" Tsunade, Fifth Hokage of the Hidden Leaf, called to them all. "We've arrived to assist!"
We? He thought to himself.
And it was then that a force of reinforcements broke through the perimeter of what had once been the Third Training Ground. They stood stock still after eliminating the Zetsu, most simply observing the gutted forests around them that had once been such a lush area of greenery. Now, it was a ruined land, with massive hand prints from where the Ten-Tailed Beast had flattened pieces of the earth.
"We're here to back you up, everyone!" Shizune shouted out, smiling their way, even if the expression never quite reached her eyes. "The Zetsu left the perimeter around the Village all of a sudden, and, well, with that giant thing on the horizon, we sort of realized we should come and assist!"
"Yeah, the cavalry's here!" Suigetsu shouted, backed by the Orochimaru remnants who'd chosen to assign themselves to the Leaf.
"We will not falter, not now." Gaara spoke, backed by Kankuro, and by a force of Sand Ninja at least fifty strong, larger even than their Akatsuki Assault Force had been.
They nodded, realizing that their focus should be on Black Zetsu now that the White Zetsu had been dealt with.
He realized a moment too late that he'd been distracted for a moment too long. He turned as he heard someone shout out his name, and saw that Black Zetsu had closed the distance between them in an instant, rounding up a strike to finish him for good.
His life began to flash before his eyes just as he felt a hand grip onto his left arm, and pull him away. Black Zetsu's strike still hit him, but only enough to rip away at his Chuunin Vest, and tatter some of the cloak he wore on his back, obliterating them, but leaving him alive.
As Black Zetsu was forced into another entirely different fight, he turned to see the panting form of Tenten, still holding tightly to his left arm, as if not yet willing to relinquish him for fear he'd melt away if she did.
"You… saved me."
She smiled up at him. "Uh… yeah. Looks like it."
He smirked to himself as he shook his head, before pulling the both of them to their feet.
"Thank you. Seriously."
"Yeah, uh… what are friends for?."
He stood there awkwardly for a moment before he realized he should probably get back to being in battle.
He gave Tenten one last nod before charging in, infusing a Rasengan with some Sage Mode Chakra. It fizzled as it struck air, and he could see the frustration on Black Zetsu's face as, instead of managing to land a hit on him in that interim period, three roots rose up from the ground and caught his wrist, constricting it and forcing the limb downwards. It forced Black Zetsu to channel power to the limb to break it, buying him the time to break away.
The Ten-Tailed Jinchuuriki turned angrily towards where Sakura stood, looking exhausted but determined, and seemed to make a decision there. He made for her in but a moment, a black rod emerging from his hand, sharpened like a blade as he reared back.
Sakura's eyes widened, but it seemed she needn't have worried, for, before she could be struck by the man's attack, his black rod was answered by the broken sword of Sasuke. He held Black Zetsu in place for but a moment, before the bastard exerted himself, and blew Sasuke away with some variant ability.
Sakura once more found herself in danger, and Anko, who was too far to protect her, screamed as Black Zetsu brought the rod back, preparing to stab it forward.
This time, a glowing skeletal hand blocked the blow, and though he'd initially suspected it would be Itachi to do such a thing…
Well, Itachi's had not been purple.
Sasuke panted as he held his head with one hand, evidently in rather extreme pain from the overexertion. His eyes were red and veiny, and it seemed he couldn't quite prevent Black Zetsu from breaking the effect, from breaking his newly obtained Susanoo, but…
He'd bought enough time for the figure who crashed down and struck Black Zetsu in the back to do his work.
"Sorry, that took so long!" Jiraiya said, his face colored with some form of Sage Mode that was all his own. "We're here now!"
"Ah, Naruto boy!" Fukasaku looked to him. "Good to see you've kept up with your mastery of Sage Mode. We'll need it, along with that lass' abilities as well!"
He was pointing to Sakura, and Naruto nodded as two massive Rasengan's formed in Jiraiya's hands, eating away at the earth as the man stepped forward, Sage energy radiating off of him.
His master was rather clearly not proficient in its use, but even so, it seemed like this amount of ability would (hopefully) be capable of downing Black Zetsu here.
If it wasn't, well…
That would be it, Naruto supposed.
He found an idea coming to him as he stepped forward, and, taking a deep breath, he acted on it.
"I, Sakura, Sasuke, Itachi, Jiraiya, and Kakashi," He said as he popped a second Sage Clone, and felt the chakra fill him. "Will be taking on Black Zetsu from here. The rest of you, focus on the White Zetsu surrounding us!"
No one complained, even if it looked like several of them wanted to.
"Right, that's all well and good, but make it through this, you all!" Anko shouted towards them. "Protect yourselves first!"
"Right, Sakura, all of you! Live!" Ino called.
"Don't any of you dare die!" Zaku yelled out for what seemed to be all three members of the Sound Trio.
"Be cautious." Haku spoke, giving an even smile.
"Watch yourself, Naruto!" Hinata shouted.
"Yeah, be careful br– er, Naruto!" Fu went red in the face.
"Naruto, everyone, win!" Tenten raised her fist.
"Make it count!" Kabuto said with more fervor than Naruto had ever heard.
"All y'all better be fine after all the shit you've pulled!" Suigetsu yelled.
"For those who gave me hope once upon a time, I promise to, in turn, do as much as I can to return the favor." This time it was Gaara speaking.
"Hah, same. Those who helped to save my little brother, we have your backs, count on us!" Kankuro assured them.
"Once we've dealt with things here, we'll come to reinforce you!" Shizune shouted out.
Tsunade smirked one last time towards them before slamming her fist into the ground, cracking the already decimated landscape, and sending more Zetsu into the earth.
"Prove it, Naruto. Prove you really do deserve the title of Hokage!"
He found himself smiling, and nodding as he turned back around, towards Black Zetsu, whose face was terribly annoyed.
Now it was time to finish this.
"You annoying humans…" Black Zetsu shook his head as he took a few steps back from all of them. "You're faced with a power beyond any you've ever seen! You're weak! You can't possibly stand up against me, so why do you continue to fight!? Why won't you just give up!?"
Naruto wasn't the only one smiling as they stepped towards Black Zetsu, cracking their necks, loosening their joints, and preparing for the battle they still had left ahead in any way they could.
Because they would not give up. Because they would not go down without a fight.
"It's pretty simple, honestly," Naruto remarked. "First off, we humans, whether we're 'weak' or not, don't much like losing very much at all. And second off, your so called 'power beyond any we've ever seen' might be impressive, but eh, at the end of the day, we've already identified your weaknesses. We intend to take you down, regardless of your so-called 'godlike power', so that's what we're going to do…"
"And, thirdly," Naruto smiled. "Because there are people back there we need to protect, hell, there are people right there," He pointed right at Black Zetsu's body, at Obito Uchiha, who still remained encased in slumber. "Who some of us here have decided to protect." He watched as Kakashi's gaze briefly faltered. "And so that's what we're going to do. If it means we need to strike down some phony mommy's boy with a god complex…?" He struck his own palm with his fist, firing himself up as he popped the second to last of his Sage Clones. "Then so be it!"
Everyone else seemed to agree.
Black Zetsu growled, his hands balling into fists before he stilled, taking a deep breath before looking up at them all once more, seemingly forcing himself into calm.
"Fine, then. I'll crush your pathetic resistance, even past your little plan, even past your confidence, and then, once I've done that, I'll take away everything you're trying to protect as well. Just to spite your miserable hides. And then… then I'll keep you alive, just long enough to see my mother's rebirth, for you to fuel her, and become Zetsu yourselves."
Itachi and Sasuke, side by side, took battle stances, their Susanoo's glowing. He and Jiraiya did the same, preparing for the upcoming fight with their twin Sage Modes. Sakura and Kakashi, likewise, flexed their most powerful techniques, with Sakura's tendrils pouring up around her, humming with the energy of the land, and Kakashi's Chidori blazing to life within his right hand.
"GO!" He shouted.
And all hell broke loose.
Black Zetsu charged for the two of them first, though Naruto himself was fast enough to juke underneath the man's punch and try to land one of his own. He pulled the strike just fast enough to avoid hitting against the black orb that was spreading into some kind of dish just in front of him. He had a feeling, were he to strike it with his bare hand, that he'd end up losing most of his arm.
Jiraiya had no such inhibitions, given the massive Rasengan he struck Black Zetsu with a moment later. Instead of eviscerating him with its Senjutsu-based chakra, it was entirely negated by that same black, floating matter, which seemed to be acting as both a sword and a shield for Black Zetsu.
He pulled it back, easily answering Sasuke and Itachi's Susanoo attacks with it, turning it from a flat disc into a singular ball.
"What the hell is that thing!?" Naruto couldn't help asking.
"If I'm right," Jiraiya spoke after a moment spent fighting. "It's a truth-seeking orb, a combination of every chakra nature, it is, in and of itself, a counter to every form of Ninjutsu. It was theorized that it would be possible to create one by some of our scientists but… it was always just a theory. To actually see one…"
"Oh good. Great, even, I'm glad we have to deal with this now too."
He couldn't spend very much time complaining if he actually wanted them to win this, though, and so he sprung back into action. Sakura was the MVP of the day so far, her tendrils acting as stopgaps on Black Zetsu's movement at nearly every point. Every time it looked like he had one of them, every time it looked like one of them might bite the dust, Sakura's vines gripped just tight enough to hold him back, to give them just enough space to retreat.
Her role at this point was almost purely supportive in nature; but it was by far the most important role any of them had. Unfortunately, judging by the way sweat poured down her brow, she was rather clearly straining to keep it going.
Itachi and Sasuke were their greatest defense. Their Susanoo's continued to tank dangerous hits for all of them, even past where it was clear neither could truly sustain the technique much longer, especially Sasuke, who looked as if he were dying having to summon it over and over again, his eyes quite literally bleeding as he conjured the armor for what must've been the tenth or so time that hour.
Even Itachi was beginning to show signs of wear and tear, however. He was favoring one foot over the other, and his left eye was cloudy, and as if it might go blind at any minute.
Naruto and Jiraiya acted as their main offensive power. Their combined mastery of Sage Jutsu's meant they could actually make meaningful hits on Black Zetsu, even if the being's natural healing factor kept him alive through almost everything. If they wanted to truly defeat him, they'd have to land a perfect blow, one that he couldn't guard against at all.
And yet even still, he was exhausted. They'd been fighting for nearly an hour straight now, and he'd not even been at one hundred percent to begin with.
Kakashi was their jack of all trades here. His multitude of Jutsu came in handy, ranging from walls of every kind (including 'Fire Wall' which was a Jutsu Naruto had never seen before that was a lot more useful than he would've thought) to attacks from any angle, every angle. What Kakashi lacked in power he made up for in adaptability.
And yet, utilizing the Mangekyou Sharingan was clearly weighing on him. His movements were growing sluggish and slow.
Yet still, even with their run-down states, they were holding Black Zetsu back. He'd not managed to kill a single one of them, and it was clear that was getting to the bastard. He heard more than he saw Black Zetsu let out a frustrated growl. He braced himself against the earth below him, and a good thing he'd done that too, for in the next moment, a blast of energy threatened to blow him back, which knocked most of the others off their feet. Only Sakura, with her roots to… well, root her, had stayed upright as well.
Black Zetsu did not let that moment go to waste. He moved, and even with Sakura's tendrils wrapping around his limbs, and trying to hold him in place, he managed to break free of them, and fly, not for Jiraiya, or Itachi, or Sasuke, as Naruto might have thought he would…
But at Kakashi.
"Kakashi Sensei!" He screamed out as his teacher was put in the firing line.
"Kakashi!" Sasuke yelled.
"No!" Sakura reached out a hand, her tendrils obeying her will and chasing Black Zetsu…
But it wouldn't be enough. They wouldn't make it there in time.
Which was why it was so confusing when Black Zetsu, the black rod embedded in his right-hand mere inches from Kakashi's face, suddenly stopped.
"What in…" Black Zetsu murmured out, before, after a moment, he let out a horrid gasp. "By mother herself… I simply get no breaks from you weaklings, do I!?"
"What… is…" Kakashi's voice spoke, standing up just in front of Black Zetsu, his eyes set right on the creatures face. "That's…"
Naruto found himself wondering what was going on, as did Sasuke, Itachi, Jiraiya, and Sakura. They moved around, trying to see the front side of Black Zetsu, and when they did, their eyes widened terribly.
"Heh… the looks… on your faces…" Black Zetsu's mouth opened and closed, but… the voice that emerged from out of it was…
"You bastard!" Black Zetsu spoke, his eye facing not them, but his own face. "Why now of all times!?"
"Who knows… but… I'd like to think…" The second voice attached to Black Zetsu's form, no…
To Obito Uchiha's body, gave a tiny laugh at that.
"I'd like to think I'm here," Obito smiled up at all of them, wincing in pain as he fought for control over his body.
"To end this…
"Once and for all."
End Chapter 98
Obito awakens at the perfect moment!
Anyways, I'll see you all next week!
EDIT: Fixed the fact that a line in this chapter just kind of... cut off lol.