Act I - Beyond The Horizon

Chapter 8 - Thirteenth Hour

"You're still stuck on that?"

A confused Minato looked towards a grinning Kushina, then back to the large scroll sprawled across the bed. Jiraiya had given him this particular seal schematic and told him to figure it out. He'd begged the man to tell him what it did, but the old pervert simply grinned and left.

That was a month ago. And he'd made zero progress since.


"That." Kushina walked forward and pointed at a particular scribble. "This is heading in the wrong direction, you know. You're using it to transfer something somewhere else, right?"

Minato maintained his best poker face as his girlfriend went on.

"You dragged it a bit too much. That'll obstruct the motion, which…" She paused, frowning. "Hm, yeah, this is probably what's causing the blockade, you know."

"The what?"

Kushina gave him a deadpan stare. "That blockade you were moaning about last week? How a seal kept vanishing everything you placed in it? It's based on this one, isn't it?"

It took everything he had not to gape at his girlfriend of two years. He hadn't told a soul about Jiraiya handing him this project, or any specifics about his study of the seal.

And yet—

"Yeah, it's substitution, no doubt about that. You were dabbling with this a month ago. How are you still stuck on it?"

Minato's face slackened. He was now staring at her with open-mouthed astonishment.

"…What?" asked a flustered Kushina.

He tried to put his acute frustration into words, but failed. Dismally. Besides, what was he supposed to say? That she'd given him more information with barely two looks than he himself had been able to decipher with an entire month of study?


"Ah, sorry— I— I was just…" He sheepishly scratched the back of his head. "This stuff is a bit tricky, that's all."

Kushina chuckled as she lightly ruffled his hair. She loved doing that. It was her favorite way of avoiding an argument with him.

"No, Kushina. I mean it," he replied, his voice wrought with frustration. "This thing is really hard."

"Sure it is," she shrugged, collecting the pillows from his bed before leaving the room.

Minato's expression drooped. He hadn't been kidding.

Fuinjutsu was hard.

Not because it had esoteric conditions to fulfill or required advanced knowledge or demanded obscene levels of power. No, the Art of Sealing was nothing but strange sigils drawn onto chakra paper with black ink, yet it could do the impossible. From a rusty kunai to an eldritch horror, a fuinjutsu seal could seal anything, bend time and space as easily as twitching a finger, or even summon gargantuan monsters from dimensions hitherto unknown.

It was also a complete mess of squiggles that gave practitioners unwarranted headaches.

A hand rubbing his temples, Minato frowned as he stared at the spot Kushina had pointed out earlier. But try as he might, he couldn't make heads or tails of it.

The truth was, there was no real law or theory behind the subject. Even after several hundred years since its discovery at the lands of Uzushio, nobody could actually decipher what these random symbols meant. Instead, 'intellectuals' used statistics to create patterns and inferences about how certain permutations manifested in different results. In the end, that's all fuinjutsu experts were— masters of trial and error, accidentally reaching certain results after hours of wasted paper and ink. It was entirely possible a random stroke made by a newborn baby made for a better 'fuinjutsu formula' than anything designed by a herd of scientists.

Essentially, practitioners knew that using A and B in a particular fuinjutsu seal could result in C, but nobody had a clue as to why.

Apparently, someone forgot to tell his girlfriend that.

"Kushina," he called out, "can you come back here for a second?"

After a few moments, she peeked her head back into the room, giving him one of her odd, grumpy looks. "What?"

"Can you…" he hesitated for a moment, before swallowing his pride. "Can you help me with this seal? I think I'm stuck."

Her lips twisted into a beaming smile as she bounced into the room like a happy child, bent over the scroll and staring down at it before Minato had the chance to even blink. The pattern Minato had been working on was a squarish thing, with several scribbles drawn along the vertices and a single spiral in the center of the shape. According to Jiraiya's notes, the caricature could have nine hundred and thirty-nine different possible outcomes, and that was without counting any structural augmentations, which could easily add a thousand more.

Minato observed as Kushina's gaze traversed the length of the square. Then, she snatched the brush from Minato's hands and gently added a new dot at the end of the top-left vertex. He stared with bated breath as Kushina's fine hands worked swiftly. Not a misplaced pattern, not a shaky line, not a wasted movement. Every brush stroke was immaculate.

"This should work," she muttered. "Earlier, the system's chakra circulation was all messed up. Adding contrasting elements only added to the imbalance, you know. You'd use up a ton of power and still mess up the destination, but—"

Kushina leaned back to stare at her work, chewing on her lip as the seconds ticked by. Minato held his breath, wondering for a moment whether the seal would actually work or if he had to start all over again—

She added a second dot next to the one she first placed.

"There! That should do it."

Minato stared at the still-nonsensical diagram. Simply looking at it made him feel stupid.

"How— how do you understand all of that?"

Kushina tilted her head, soulful violet eyes filled with confusion. "How do you not?"

The structure in front of him was a maddening design, one that reflected Orochimaru's insanity and brilliance at the same time. A rhombicosidodecahedron established in five dimensions, with a hundred and twenty edges and thirty square faces, each of which was littered with squiggles that— if his math was right —added eight hundred and forty-six possible outcomes, with the value increasing on an exponential level as the faces increased.

Mathematically, figuring out the exact method behind the Seal's execution was zero. Or at least as close to it as theoretically possible.

Of course, Minato was far from the awestruck child he'd been as he gazed upon the magnificence of fuinjutsu for the first time. Since then, he'd grown into an accomplished Seal Master, whipping up dozens of seals with barely a moment's thought. With Kushina's aid, he had studied thousands of seal combinations, his eidetic memory and analytical mind able to put them together like pieces of a puzzle with little effort.

But this?

The more he studied it, the less it made sense.

In fact, he was almost certain it was in the same league as the Shiki Fujin. He'd have an easier time making Orochimaru dance in a tutu than figure it all out before everything went to hell. Yet, every single second spent on the Seal would mean an extra second for the Kyuubi and Orochimaru to mess with his son's life.

It was a race against time.

"Why are you still here?" the Uzumaki girl demanded. She was restless, constantly shifting her weight from one foot to the other. "I felt Blu— Naruto change. The Kyuubi— she's taken control of him."

Anxiety and panic gripped his heart like an icy vice. It could— it couldn't end like this. He had to trust the Shiki Fujin to do its job. Besides, the Demon Fox was locked within the prison, and not even Naruto had the power to unlock it. At best, it would take over Naruto's consciousness temporarily, and even that was only if Naruto allowed it. This wasn't real, but spiritual. It could only allow minor traces of Yin chakra to—

"Please! Just do something!"

Minato clenched his jaw. Truth be told, there was very little he could do. His son's seal would prevent the bijuu from escaping— it could channel its chakra through Naruto and twist his perceptions in its own demonic image, but it couldn't erode Naruto's own soul or take over him entirely.

Naruto would still be Naruto.

Or would he?

The stray thought flickered through his mind. Minato suppressed the urge to leave his task and jump to his son's safety, but he knew better than that. He couldn't stop the Fox. He barely had enough energy to sustain himself at this point, and would probably fade in the next few hours. Before that happened, he needed to take care of this damn Seal.

"Are you even listening to me?"

"Shut up and let me work!" he snapped back.

The redhead helped, staggering back in fear. Yet, her words did not change. "Please…"

Minato exhaled visibly, meeting her eyes. "Listen, girl—"

"My name's Karin!"

"Whatever. I know Naruto needs my help, but that's what I'm trying to do! Solving this seal, keeping it from taking over him, that's what Naruto needs. Everything else is a lower priority—"

"Don't shovel me that bullshit! Blue's gonna die at this rate and— oh, to hell with you!"

Minato tightly grabbed her hand. The girl— Karin —tried to fight his hold, but to no avail. Of course, that hardly deterred the redhead, as she began to bite and claw her way out of his grasp.

She's a spitfire isn't she? Just like Kushina. Maybe all Uzumaki girls are like—

"Let me go!"

"Listen," Minato snapped again, now at the edge of his normally saint-like patience. "I'm trying to save Naruto, but you yelling at me doesn't help. If you go in there, you'll die. I'm not sure how experienced you are, but finding people that care for you is hard to come by in our world, so excuse me for wanting Naruto to have you by his side. Alive. Now nod if you understand."

Karin dumbly nodded.

"Good." He slackened his grip on the girl's arm. "Now just sit tight and let me do my—"

A sudden howl froze him in his tracks. The waters beneath his feet shook with maddening turbulence, and he could hear titanic waves of something rush in their direction.

Minato stilled. No, that couldn't be right. That couldn't be right. That couldn't be—

The world around him went silent, as if reality itself held its breath. There was a low shiver in the floor beneath his feet, a hideous pressure in the air, a trickle of flowing liquid in the tunnel. And then, from the direction of the Kyuubi's prison, a gale of pure red-white energy exploded outward, turning everything it touched into utter ruin.

The walls around him immediately shattered.

Instantly grabbing Karin by her waist, Minato leapt from one wall to another, the explosion hot on his heels. Every stone his feet touched made him bite back a groan of agony. Every time he came close to the liquid on the floor, it threatened to burn him. And that was ignoring the cloud of dust and debris that fell on them from atop, becoming one with the chaos down below.

Yomi has now truly opened itself to us.

Minato's eyes darted back and forth, his mind churning as he desperately tried to find a solution. A spatial-transfer barrier could deflect the explosion, but that would force him to drop Karin and let her die. The more he ran, the farther he'd be from the Seal and the longer it would take him to fix everything. Meanwhile, the Kyuubi and Orochimaru would have more time to accomplish their agendas while he was trying to save some random Uzumaki girl who—

Shink! Shink! Shink! Shink! Shink!

Minato halted in his tracks as he felt the lack of raging tsunami nipping at his heels. Going against his own instincts, he impulsively turned around, only to find—


Long, golden chains.

Hundreds of them. Chains and chains and more chains tearing their way past the walls— no, if anything, the walls were slowly vanishing, allowing the chains to travel through them with little to no resistance. The giant golden meshwork of physical chains formed a barrier against the incoming onslaught of furious, destructive energy that threatened to obliterate them..

Suddenly, the air before him began to shimmer.

A tiny shard— a speck of light —began to arise from within. Then another. And another yet again.

The shards gathered faster and faster, like the shatter of a vase, only in reverse.

It all came together to form a glowing image, one he would recognize anywhere. The same glorious red hair, the same furious expression, the same look of undaunted stubbornness that rivaled his own. Standing there, with an entire dome of golden chains shooting out of her back, as the last of Uzumaki royalty.

The previous jinchuuriki of the Nine-Tailed Fox.

The woman he loved. The mother of his child.

Kushina Uzumaki.

Everything hurt.

Naruto breathed heavily, his knees painfully resting on the drenched floor. His eyes swam dizzily, and the taste of metal in his mouth was proof of how badly he was wounded.

Everything hurt, but therefore, he was alive. Alive meant he could punish. Alive meant he could kill. Alive meant he could release his hatred into a world that dared to imprison him.

Being hurt was good.

It was exactly the kind of shaky logic that Guren would appreciate, and the kind Tayuya would yell at. Anko… she would've probably smirked at him and rubbed her generous assets against his back to try and get him to squirm in embarrassment.

None of it mattered. He was alive. He could still fight, and thus, still win. No, not win. Survive. He had to survive. Not surviving meant Tayuya would die. If she wasn't already dead.

Naruto felt annoyed by the sudden thought. The entire night had been one rollercoaster after another. The Master, that strange Seal, black lines shooting out of him, the screaming woman, Karin, and now this— this—

There were too many variables. Too little information to discern truth from falsehoods. He wanted to believe Karin was speaking the truth. He wanted to deny that Tayuya was dead. The Master wanted him dead, and at this point, Naruto was almost grateful to the man for not wavering in his desire to kill him— at least something still made sense. As for the bijuu, he really didn't know what to make of her ridiculous theory about him being an Uzumaki with yellow hair—

He shook his head. His mind was running in odd directions. It was becoming harder to focus. Then again, who needed focus when he had hate? Had a purpose? He could feel the Hate calling him.

Give in. Give in. Give in.

Spitting blood from his mouth, he glared at the shinobi in front of him. The air around him had become a thick, chakra-saturated mist.

"So," the man said, disappointment vivid in his tone. "You're still breathing."

He found himself grinning. Why? He asked himself. Because it's fun, his Rage answered.

Orochimaru let out an odd throaty chortle. "I knew the Kyuubi chakra would nullify the flames, but the physical weight should have crushed you." He smiled mirthlessly. "Second time's the charm, perhaps?"

"He cannot do this forever," the Kyuubi's thoughts reverberated in his mind. "Channel my chakra. Give in to the rage. I will kill your nemesis for you."

Yes. That would be the right thing to do. Give in. Give in. Give—

Something disturbed the purity of his hatred. He couldn't tell what it was, but it pissed him off to no end. This man, this shinobi— Naruto was about to grant him the profound experience of a horrible death. And yet, he just wouldn't cooperate. Instead, he was making him work for it. This was beyond contempt.

Give in. Give in. Give in. Give in.

"You should consider yourself lucky, Naruto," the Snake-Sannin spoke, his expression languid. "Few before you have had the opportunity to see me at my greatest. Well, my greatest before my ultimate ascension." He smirked. "You see, I knew the explosion wouldn't kill you. After all, the Kyuubi's chakra is the great neutralizer. Any transformed chakra— physical, chemical, ethereal —will return to its original form. Yin and yang, the purest form of existence. Of balance. Isn't that right?"

"I should have killed you when I had the chance all those years ago…" Naruto hissed, all the while wondering why it was all he could think to say. Control didn't feel so easy now, as the gentle whispers of the bijuu in the back of his mind became a keening chorus baying for blood.

He's done something. The Master… He planned on me accepting this chakra and turning into this. I can feel it. I'll tear him limb from limb for this. To have the audacity to use ME to fuel his own dastardly ambitions. I'll—

"I admit, Great Fox," Orochimaru replied, grinning from ear to ear, "it took me some time to understand the laws governing this place. Now that's something I'd love to see you explain to your precious jinchuuriki."

Naruto gritted his teeth in rage. He wanted to— he wanted to—

Give in. Give in. Give—

"The way I see it, this battle of ours is a stalemate at best. For anything you and your jinchuuriki can throw at me, I have a counter. Yet with every passing second, Naruto will lose his mind to your corrosive influence. If you want, we can play this game until he's nothing more than a mindless husk. But personally," Orochimaru shrugged, "I could simply give him a clean death."

It was then that the strangest thing happened.

Naruto's vision became clear. He could feel the Kyuubi's corrosive chakra, as potent and vicious as it was, slowly leaving his form. As the violent mist of rage that had covered his mind slowly dissipated, his body returned to its normal state. Clarity was within his grasp.

What— what was happening?

He dropped to his knees. Without the power, without the chakra, without the feeling of Hatred overpowering the rest of his senses, pain overwhelmed his very existence.

"I see. For a moment there, I thought you were being clever."

Naruto slowly turned around, only to find the bijuu reformed back into the redheaded woman inside the prison.

"What is—"

"Hush child," the bijuu chided. "This does not concern you."

"Ah," the Master drawled, "the charade is over. Good, I was getting bored."

The bijuu smiled, and then she did something utterly outrageous.

She traipsed through the bars of the prison.

Naruto's mind was reeling. This— he hadn't anticipated this. The bijuu had told him he couldn't release her from the prison. And yet, here she was. Walking out all by herself. What had changed? The Master— Orochimaru said something about the laws about this place.

He glanced around.

This was the Seal. It wasn't the real world. So where was it? Some other place? Inside his mind? Inside—

"Your mental tangents are quite distracting, boy," the woman replied, glancing at him from the corner of her eyes. "I am trapped inside you. I see through your eyes. I feel through your senses. Everything you know, I know."

"Everything—" Naruto murmured, realizing the implications of the statement. He hadn't been fooling anyone. He hadn't—

"What did I say about shutting up?"

Naruto swallowed, and tried not to think. It was harder than he thought.

The Kyuubi laid her red eyes on the Master. "You are a crafty one, Orochimaru. Be flattered that I acknowledge your existence. Had things been different, I'd have gladly aligned my interests with your own."

Surprise flickered across the Master's face.

"I have seen your dedication. Your brilliance outshines most shinobi I have gazed upon. But the problem with geniuses is that their mistakes tend to be equally large."

The Master frowned. "What are you—"

"You have researched my ability. Perhaps you even comprehend my True nature. My position in the World Order. You have identified the laws under which this place operates and likely have a dozen plans to fall back upon. But you forget one simple fact."

She smiled. It was a terrible thing.

"Naruto is an imprint, a consciousness given form by my chakra inside this Seal. If he dies here, it changes nothing. But you, my crafty little shinobi, are a soul. You are the only thing that is real here, apart from myself."

Orochimaru paled.

"Both of us are trapped here. Inside the Shiki Fujin. Forever. And that means I can do this."

Naruto felt the woman turn his gaze upon him, and faster than he could comprehend, one of her tails reached for his face—

And darkness took him.

"Kushina…" Minato breathed.

"Just a minute Minato," she replied, irritation seeping into her voice. "I'm already pissed by everything that's going on. And you gawking like a fool isn't helping, you know"

Minato couldn't help it. He laughed.

The energy kept trying to blast its way through the golden chains, hitting the meshwork with all of its overwhelming force. But like an immovable, unyielding mountain, the barrier Adamantine Sealing Chains held them back without fail.

Not that it surprised him.

After all, he had seen Kushina hold back the awful power of the Nine-Tailed Fox with it. Compared to that, an explosion, no matter how powerful, was merely child's play.

"Um—" he heard a murmur. "Could you please let me down now? This is kinda embarrassing."

Minato blinked as he realized he was still holding Karin by her stomach, with her limply hanging over his arm like a sack of potatoes. Jumping down onto the floor, he allowed her to get her feet down on the ground. She stumbled over for a second, before regaining her balance.

"Thanks…" she murmured, before glancing towards Kushina. "She's an Uzumaki too."

"Uzumaki royalty," Kushina replied in her trademarked sickly-sweet tone. "And what are your intentions, might I ask, for my cute but horribly misguided Naruto?"

Minato sweat-dropped. Trust his wife to ignore the situation and dive straight into the heart of the matter. Of course, the definition of 'heart of the matter' was explicitly different from the norm when it came to Kushina Uzumaki.

"I saw what you did," the older redhead continued, glaring at Karin. "You took advantage of my innocent Naruto's lack of experience with the fairer sex and smashed your boobs against him. Like seriously, how are those so big?" she exclaimed, unabashedly pointing at the younger girl's not-so-inconsiderable assets. "What are you, like thirteen?"

"I'm fifteen, thank you very much," Karin replied with equal hostility, leaving Minato to wonder when the world had stopped making sense.

"Fifteen and you're that big? That's not fair! I only had a—"

Minato coughed.

"Err—" Kushina sheepishly grinned. "Right. Imminent destruction and all that." As she turned towards the chain mesh, her brows furrowed. "The power… it's receding. No, it's getting out. But how? That doesn't even make any sense, you know!"

"Kushina," Minato delicately began, not wanting to be the target of his temperamental wife's ire, "how are you here? I thought—"

"You thought the Seal would keep me trapped and bound until I'm needed. And that was, if you allowed me to exercise my function," she coldly responded. "Am I getting warmer?"

Minato winced. That was a terrible way of putting it.

The events on the night of Naruto's birth had spiralled out of control, especially the sealing. The Kyuubi was unlike any other bijuu— one may as well seal all the other eight bijuu into one person. Both Mito and Kushina were Uzumaki royalty, possessing Adamantine Sealing Chains which had been instrumental in their respective sealing processes. Even then, there were situations where the Kyuubi's chakra adversely affected them, often leading to disastrous consequences.

Compared to Mito and Kushina, a newborn Naruto was a far inferior jinchuuriki candidate. To successfully perform the sealing, power was required. A lot of it.

That was where the Shiki Fujin came in. The power of the Death God, fueled by the sacrifice of his own soul. It was the perfect solution.

If only it had actually worked so perfectly.

"Kushina," he weakly tried. "Whatever you think I did, I swear it's not—"

Kushina shot him a reassuring smile. It did nothing to settle his nerves. "The way this works, husband," she spoke in that sickly-sweet tone of hers, "is that I ask you a question, and then you give me a dishonest answer. If you lie to me before I have the chance to ask the question, it offends my sense of propriety."

He wisely shut up.

"Why did you seal me away like that?"

Minato sighed. He may as well rip the band-aid off in one go. It'd be messy, but thankfully not time-consuming.

"My original idea was to seal away a portion of your soul with my own. I was sacrificing myself, and you were dying. I thought—" he swallowed, suppressing the painful memories of that night, "I thought it would be a way for us to coexist inside Naruto's seal. At least till things went crazy, I guess. You were there, holding the Fox back with every bit of your depleting lifeforce. It was easy, too easy, to seal a fraction of you as well while I was sealing the bijuu away."

"But...?" Kushina prodded.

He closed his eyes. The binding of the Shinigami was absolute. But like all absolute things, it was rigid, unbending, and inflexible. The nature of Kushina's chains as a binder, her history as the Fox's jinchuuriki, her role as the Warden, and given how she was restraining the Fox at the time— all of it caused something no statistician could have ever anticipated.

A coincidence.

And there was no science to coincidence.

"I messed up," he bitterly said. "By the time I figured out what happened, you were already trapped inside the seal, along with the Fox. I thought it would attack you and you'd pop out, but that didn't happen either. Instead, the seal held you as part of the prison system. A failsafe should Naruto, the current Warden, fail in his duty to keep the Kyuubi restrained."

And that was how Kushina had lived since then.

Unable to express herself.

Unable to pop.

Unable to move.

Simply another existence trapped within the Shinigami's Seal, watching over her child endlessly.

"And despite knowing all that, you didn't call for me," his wife fumed. "All this time, Naruto has been in danger from the Fox and Orochimaru, yet you've been trying to manage everything by yourself? There is such a thing as asking for help, you know."

Minato gulped. "I was just trying to—"

"Do everything yourself in hopes that I'd get a chance to meet my son in the future while you die. How's that for a guess?"

"…Spot on?"

The rest of his words died in his throat as he watched her— the red hot habanero —glaring at him. Orochimaru's killing intent had nothing on hers. Even after years of murdering his way to the top of the shinobi hierarchy, he felt like a puppy that wanted to run for the hills when she glared at him.

"Kushina," he finally asked. "How are you here?"

"Shit's gone crazy, Minato," she snorted, finally diffusing the tension.

"Fair enough."

Kushina chuckled. "The Eight Trigrams seal is confused. You placed it on Naruto to contain a particular form of chakra under extreme restraints, but whatever Orochimaru did, whatever he's doing, is confusing the hell out of it. There's so much power flowing out of the seal, but it can't register which power belongs to whom or what should be suppressed and what shouldn't. My being here is less of an intended response and more of a… knee-jerk reaction."

"I see." If what she said was true, then that meant— "You're here as the Seal's representative."

Kushina owlishly blinked, before beaming. "You figured that out quickly!"

"Hey give me some credit, I designed it," Minato grinned. Ushina may have been the genius with fuinjutsu, but it was his uncanny mind that came up with a variety of applications of said genius.

The two stared each other down for a few moments as the surrealness of the situation sunk in.

"…You're bored out of your mind aren't you?"

"Of course I'm bored!" she childishly snapped, which was just so in character for her. It was seeing the real-life Kushina again. "Ahem—" she coughed, her cheeks slightly pink, "I mean, there's not much I can do in my current situation other than examine and maintain Naruto's seal. All this power being thrown around, explosions and stuff, the seal sent me to act."

That, Minato mused, was not how his seal was supposed to function. Then again, Kushina's former role as Warden was related to the Eight Trigrams seal's role as the Prison. Had the power of the Shinigami somehow forced the two roles to work in tandem without his knowledge?

That bore some thought upon. Especially if—


"Kushina, what is your end goal here?

She stilled.

"Shadow clones are tiny soul constructs given physical form through chakra transformation," Minato went on. "I of all people would know. Your appearance and behavior might be just like Kushina, but your very purpose ties into the seal's function."

It wasn't a question, but a fact.

Kushina smiled, but there was no humor in her expression. "That is true, shinobi."

"I see." Calmness subsumed him. "So it's like that, then."

And he grasped Karin's hand.


"Karin," Minato barked, his eyes never leaving Kushina's familiar visage, "you are not a soul. You're an imprint, a memory of the true Karin Uzumaki. Isn't that right?"


"A yes or no will suffice."


"How did you end up here?"

"I was searching for Blu— Naruto. Mentally. The Seal dragged me in."

"That's not impossible. The Seal isn't supposed to drag in foreign material. That goes against its primary—" he paused, staring at Kushina's not-smile. "I see. Very well. I apologize."

"For what?"


He grasped her head, and channeled chakra into her. Pure, unrefined yang chakra. As an imprint, she was entirely composed of Yin. The immaterial. With the addition of yang chakra, the physical, she was now whole. He felt the redhead shake and convulse in pain, until her form became akin to a shadow clone that was completely out of juice.

"Listen to me carefully. I need you to wake up and find Naruto's body. Wake him up, and get him the hell out of wherever he is. Can I count on you to do that?"

"I— but I—"

"Can you do it?"

"Yes!" the girl yelped.

"Good," Minato replied, giving her a lopsided grin.

And then he snapped her neck and Karin dropped to the floor like a marionette with severed strings, before popping into a plume of white smoke.

"Well that was dramatic," Kushina drawled, still watching him like a cat.

"Sorry about that," Minato huffed, dusting off his vest. "Now, where were we?"

Editor: Solo Starfish, the best goddamn starfish the world has ever seen.

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