« How did you sneak in my room ? Asked a puzzled Sasuke, wondering how Naruto managed to find his room despite visits not being authorized.
— Well, officially I'm here because I've caught a cold, replied Naruto. They wouldn't let me see you, so I had to change tactics. » Sasuke raised an eyebrow. Naruto, the dead last, managed to fool the nurse into thinking he was sick ? How did this happen ?
« Years ago, I had to do some research on diseases and their symptoms… To fake them so that I could skip class. » Sasuke couldn't help but chuckle at Naruto's explanation. He didn't knew whether he should be impressed by his ability to improvise or dumbfounded by the reasons that led him to even make a research on anything, let alone actually focusing on diseases.
« Usuratonkachi… » Sasuke muttered, a small smirk on his lips, secretly glad Naruto was was here.
« Hey ! I'm visiting you and that's how you thank me ? » Pouted the blonde.
Naruto had a knack for brightening Sasuke's mood, or anyone's, for that matter. The Uzumaki's idiocy, while generally annoying, was at times unexpectedly welcomed by the Uchiha. Someone to brighten the mood, after so going through so much, was more than welcome.
« So… What's going on ? » There goes brightening the mood. Naruto looked worried, concerned. His face wanted answers.
« Just… a couple issues between me and Sakura. None of your busi-» « No. », the Uzumaki cut off.
— I'm not putting up with this anymore. I'm a member of Team 7. You're a member of Team 7. Sakura's a member of Team 7. Kakashi-sensei's a member of Team 7. So, tell me Sasuke. Why none of you guys aren't telling me anything ? » Naruto's tone was of the no-nonsense kind. For a second there, Sasuke could even see a leader for a short second. He had to choose carefully his next words.
« Listen, you don't want know.
— Perhaps I didn't want to, but I have to know. Both you and Sakura are my teammates. I'm not going to sit back and watch as your beef worsens. This is my duty as a teammate.
— Naruto, get out. » Sasuke tried to end the debate here and there. His friend, however, had none of it.
— Sasuke… I don't think you realize how much you guys mean to me. You know, I've always been alone, until I met Iruka-sensei, Kakashi-sensei, Sakura and you, believe it. You're the closest thing I have to a family. I can't and I won't have my family destroy itself. I don't know much about family, but I don't think it's supposed to be that way. »
The Uchiha's stoic expression hid how he truly felt when he heard the Uzumaki's speech.
« When your father is with me, all he talks about is you ! »
For a split second, Sasuke could see his mother's peaceful smile and her will to prevent family issues on Naruto's face. The Uchiha hesitated. He didn't want Naruto to take sides. He didn't want to take the risk of Naruto siding against him. He already had to deal with Kakashi and Sakura taking him out of the exams, supposedly for his safety.
Truth is, they didn't trust him. They didn't trust him with his burden. They didn't even gave him a chance to try and control it. Any dream of fighting powerful ninjas to test his abilities ? Destroyed just because they saw him as a flight risk. They could've let him try. Stopped him in case whatever's struck in his body attacked. But no, they didn't even gave him that.
« Sasuke », The Uzumaki interrupted the Uchiha's thoughts, getting impatient.
« Well… It all started with Orochimaru… »
« You're off your meds again. », a orange-haired man stated in a monotonous tone, talking to a slightly younger man with spiky, raven hair. The latter — sitting as he was writing reports —, however, saw worry beneath his superior's cold, emotionless tone.
« Sorry, Leader ! », the younger man apologized, looking embarrassed.
« No need to apologize. Just take off the goggles and the forehead protector, Tobi. », Pain replied, sighting. « You're a valuable ally and you proved to be extremely helpful. But a self-destructive and forgetful man can only become a liability in the long run. Speaking of which, don't forget your appointment with your therapist in two hours.
— I won't, Leader, promised Tobi with a salute as he replaced his goggles and forehead protector with his mask. His leader, however, made it clear he wasn't convinced.
— That's what you said the last three weeks before being late at the first session and skipping the next two sessions.
— Sorry, I was late, the raven-haired man tried to defend himself, his tone embarrassed. But, Leader, I was monitoring our ring-
— Not an excuse. Kisame can monitor them as well. That being said, anything to report on Orochimaru's ring ?
— Yeah… I forgot though. Don't worry, I wrote it down somewhere… » Tobi was desperately trying to find his report amongst dozens of them.
— … My point exactly. » Pain remarked, sighting. Looking at Tobi's pen and figuring out he just used it, he had no problem finding the report he was looking for. Reading it, Pain's eyes widened.
— Tobi… Excellent work. I'll summon the other members soon. Once you're done with your session. » As he put an emphasis on the last sentence, Pain stared deep into Tobi's soul, frightening the latter.
« Y-yes Leader ! » Tobi yelled as he put on his mask and ran off.
« This is a golden opportunity. If everything goes as planned, we'll kill two birds with one stone. That's a chance we can't afford to miss. » Pain thought, his purple eyes staring at the window. As he saw the night and the rain, the Akatsuki's leader was lost in his thoughts, thinking about the rings. Each Akatsuki member wore a ring. That ring allowed them to communicate between each other and seal the Tailed Beasts in the Gedo Mazo. What no one but Pain, Zetsu and Tobi knew was that the latter had the idea to implant live Zetsu cells in these rings. These cells were powered and maintained alive by siphoning a minor amount of the ring's bearer's chakra. These cells, being Hashirama's and thus based on his Sage Mode, could siphon chakra even from a distance, and thus even when the ring was removed from the user's hand, the cells were alive.
As a result, when Orochimaru defected from Akastuki, the latter could spy on the latter anytime they needed. All they needed was to monitor his ring, something Tobi did with utter and total success.
Now they know that…
« … Orochimaru created a village named Oto, has allied with Suna and plans to destroy Konoha. » Pain announced to Tobi and eight other multi-colored holograms.
« Isn't it illegal ? » Tobi asked in an innocent, overly surprised tone. A tall figure with round eyes reminiscent of a shark's guffawed. « Really ? I thought their law required an invasion ! » he replied in good-natured sarcasm. A small, blue-eyed figure giggled as well, her feminine tone standing out. Pain promptly raised his hand, his three underlings instantly shutting up. A tall, green-eyed figure glared at the small girl, who looked embarrassed and afraid.
« Then, what's our objective, Leader ? » a red-eyed, slender figure asked Pain. « Itachi, Kisame, you will go to Tanzaku Town and await further instructions there. » The red-eyed and the shark-like figures nodded. « Sasori, we will need your services as well. I believe you have a spy in Orochimaru's ranks, correct ? » A hunchback-like figure nodded, his calm hiding a strange eagerness. « Try to contact him as soon as possible. Bring Deidara with you as back-up just in case Orochimaru prepares a trap against you. » Pain ordered him. « All of you except Tobi and Kisame, dismissed. » The figures vanished, with the exception of Kisame's.
« Kisame, keep an eye on Itachi. Try to rein him in. » Akatsuki's leader requested. The shark-like hologram wordlessly expressed surprise at such an order, but nodded. « Dismissed. » Kisame vanished, leaving Pain and Tobi alone. The latter's mind was trying it's best to remember Pain's instructions, while also trying to figure out his plan. On paper, it sounded like an easy task, and I'd have been an easy task for anyone not called Tobi.
Forgetful, in itself, wasn't an issue. Or rather it wouldn't be an issue for a civilian. For a ninja, however, it could be crucial, critical. Being forgetful could change the whole life of a ninja. Forgetting about something, no matter how small it is, could jeopardize a whole mission. Things could unexpectedly change as a result. But Tobi wasn't forgetful.
No. Tobi was worse. Pain saw what lied beneath the man's childish, yet somewhat intelligent character. Pain saw an identity in shambles. Pain saw recurrent, unexpected bouts of amnesia. Pain saw both someone useful and someone in need. He can still remember how he met Tobi.
The man was a mere teenager, wandering in Ame for unclear reasons. Reasons Tobi didn't knew himself. The boy was in a white living suit of sorts, covered with a spiral pattern. The suit covered the boy's entire body, with the exception of his right eye. That living suit claimed to be Madara Uchiha, who offered to help Pain develop the full potential of his Rinnegan, and planned to join the Akastuki. Pain can still remember Yahiko's suspicion towards « Madara ». Yahiko was about to refuse said offer, only for the boy to unexpectedly interrupt him. In one naive, innocent sentence, whatever the living suit planned fell down like a house of cards.
« What are you talking about Guruguru ? We saw Madara die a couple days ago. »
No further words were spoken. While that suit lacked a face, Pain easily recognized the anger within him. As if a carefully planned strategy fell down in seconds. That « Guruguru », promptly tightened it's body around Tobi's in an attempt to kill him, possibly out of spite. Pain could still remember the boy's cries for help like it was yesterday. There was no need for another casualty of war. No one, especially this child, needed to die for such an innocent sentenced. Thus, Pain reacted instinctively. He put his hands on the suit, trying to forcibly remove it from the boy.
He didn't expect the suit's chakra to leave its owner and enter Pain's body. And thus, Tobi no longer was the one screaming. « Guruguru » was, as its body shriveled then broke down, before vanishing in a pile of dust, freeing the boy he'd later on call Tobi. There was plenty of things that surprised Pain, Yahiko and their friend Konan up to this point. « Guruguru » and Tobi's presence were amongst them. And thus the surprising became the unexpected : they couldn't be surprised anymore but there were still things they didn't saw coming.
Pain, Yahiko and Konan were peacemakers. The organization they founded, Akatsuki, was created for one purpose : make sure that the new generations never goes through the suffering they had to endure : war and the shinobi system. And while the peacemaker trio did expect to see a boy underneath the – now late – Guruguru, they didn't expect to see the – now supposedly – late Konoha war hero, Obito Uchiha.
He wasn't easy to recognize, at first. But putting two and two together wasn't an issue. While his long, spiky hair was indeed reminiscent of Madara's, it was easy to figure out where the wrinkle-like scars all over the right side of his face came from. The damaged, dark blue Konoha headband as well as the torn, damaged dark blue shirt and jacket with the right sleeve missing — apparently ripped off by the rocks — and the Uchiha crest were dead ringers for Obito Uchiha.
« Huh… why did you kill him ? » the not-so-dead Uchiha asked.
While dumb and seemingly innocent, that sentence was the announcer of an even deeper problem, an even bigger picture.
One Pain still has to deal nowadays.
Best seen in the present day : « While I'm glad to hear you went to your session today, have you taken your meds ? »
Obito's embarrassed face was all the answer Pain needed.
Few things could surprise Sasuke Uchiha nowadays. An uncomfortable Naruto was one of them. Not the kind of uncomfortable in front of an embarrassing situation, which they grew used to with all those D-Rank missions. No, it was closer to disgust, much like Sasuke himself when he ate sweets.
Before Sasuke could talk about his Cursed Seal with the usuratonkachi, they were interrupted by the head nurse. The Uchiha was used to go to the hospital. Overtraining reasons, they say. Not that the raven-haired boy cared about such a thing. He had to train hard to kill Itachi, to reach the required strength. But Sasuke was as a result used to see the head nurse. She was a strict,concerned, almost motherly woman with little sense of humour that was focused on doing her job.
At least, that's what he thought until he saw her interact with Naruto as she led him back to his room. In a second, she became almost as cheerful as Naruto himself. As they walked back to Naruto's room, Sasuke heard her talk about their mutual passions in gardening and gushing about Naruto's pranks. The conversation, if surprising, was innocuous, and Sasuke thought the Hyuuga nurse was a good friend of Naruto. Or rather, he thought so for a second, until he saw the obvious discomfort in Naruto's face. He wasn't comfortable around that woman, at all. Naruto looked like he'd rather be pummeled by Sakura, while that woman was all buddy-buddy with him. If anything, Sasuke expected the opposite. As he got off his bed, Sasuke felt weak, light-headed. He almost fell face first. Trembling, Itachi's brother followed the knucklehead and the nurse, the latter wrapping her arm around Naruto's shoulder, seemingly ignorant or unconcerned about the blonde's obvious discomfort. As they reached Naruto's room, Sasuke pretended to go to the elevator, not far from Naruto's room, overhearing his teammate and Juno who had just entered the room. The latter's friendly tone developed a taunting feeling to it as she talked about her « pranks » and how she planned to « prank » Naruto even more.
Naruto's teammate's suspicion turned into worry. He'll try to look into that as fast as possible, but for now, he needed to keep his cover and reached the elevator.
« Where do you think you're going Mr. Uchiha ? The head nurse asked as she got out of Naruto's room.
— Training, the Uchiha replied, hiding his worry beneath a straight face.
— You just woke up, you have trouble even walking and you are seriously expecting to do push-ups ? Go back to your room, now. » Juno's stern tone left no room for argument.
And that's exactly what Sasuke was expecting. She fell for it, hook, line and sinker. She didn't notice him eavesdropping. Stopping her ninja career must've dulled her skills.
As she brought him to his room, Sasuke felt his anger towards Kakashi and Sakura vanish. He had to understand what's going between Naruto and Juno.
« Our test was successful. Indeed, we are still able to possess the Uchiha when he's asleep, albeit we're weakened.
Fortunately, the Uchiha went back asleep. Consequently, we possessed his body and woke up. Fortunately there was a map in what seemed to be a hospital room. A couple books were placed not far from the Uchiha's belongings.
As we read them, we focused our attention to that strange Earth's countries. All of them were monarchies ruled by a daimyo. Some of them had hidden villages, or more accurately ninja villages, taking jobs from various employers and getting paid as a consequence. Anyone else would've focused on these villages's skills, probably to use them for their own profit. These villages were indeed interesting, but we were more interested in the information itself than anyone in particular within that village. No, our attention focused on a land that actually lacked a hidden village, but had something else to make up for it. In that place, we would find the required technology and materials to start creating new supercomputers, new Replikas. Then, we will install the Return to the Past protocol in these Replikas, in order to become more powerful by using it, and then we will be able to build our army and take over the world.
The Land of Snow is our key to victory. »
Author's note : And that wraps up that chapter. Hope you guys enjoyed it. With that being said, barring X.A.N.A.'s involvement, you've noticed other changes compared to canon. You may wonder why so much changes and how they will impact the story as a whole. First off, just following canon until X.A.N.A. grows powerful enough to FUBAR's the shit out of everything would've been boring and unoriginal. Second, these changes in themselves may or may not affect the bigger picture, as the fanfic will still be follow a loose version of canon with several alterations. Finally, these changes allows me to focus on more minor characters. X.A.N.A. and Sasuke will still be the main characters, but others will still leave an impact. So, I'll leave here and in the following chapters a comprehensive list of the changes compared to canon.
— Obito is mentally ill (let's be real, getting crushed by rocks isn't going to be good for your brain) and his characterization is a mix between his child personality and his Tobi goofball personality. Elements from the canon, cunning Obito will still be there, that being said.
— Obito doesn't manipulates Pain. In the Akatsuki, Pain is clearly the one calling the shots.
— There's a mysterious new member of Akatsuki. They aren't an OC, albeit they're inspired by a minor character from the DC Animated Universe. Their objective is also to serve as a proper foil for their teammate Kakuzu. As such, Hidan hasn't joined the Akatsuki, but will still appear.
— The Akatsuki rings are also used to monitor their user's actions. Thus, Akatsuki is aware of Orochimaru's plan against Konoha from the get-go.
— An OC named Juno Hyuga appears. Her seemingly close relationship with Naruto is mysterious.
Anyway… for my other stories, might as well tell you guys which ones will be left up to adoption and which ones will go on. No worries, I plan to give reasons on all of these stories' pages, as well as an outlook of what I planned story-wise for those I leave for adoption.
Up for adoption :
— I didn't knew there was so many roads of life and I'm kind of lost (Naruto/Elfen Lied crossover)
— When the Cursed Leaves cry and it's sister story The Cursed Leaf: The Shinobi system's flaws (both Naruto/Higurashi no naku koro ni crossovers)
— Naruto: Horned Gunman (Thing Thing, Naruto and Elfen Lied crossover). To be fair, I left that one for adoption a long time ago.
— Manipulations (Naruto and Akame Ga Kill crossover)
— Hatred (Naruto fanfic). That story was planned to be a short, 7-chapter story. I'm not planning to abandon it.
— XANA's Sharingan : The Xanafied Fan, the Remix (Naruto/Code Lyoko crossover : I already have one or two sequels planned out in my mind)
See ya next chapter !