As the familiar voice caught Team 7's attention, Naruto and Sakura noted that not many changes were seen in the boy's appearance, apart from a slight change in height. His attire now consisted of indigo-colored pants, over which hung a stone blue cloth held up by a violet-colored obi. He complemented this with a white, long-sleeved shirt kept open at the torso and black arm guards covering his forearms. "So, Naruto," he started with a tired expression, "...you came too." The blond kept the same infuriating smile on his face as the boy spoke. "I assume this means Kakashi is here as well...?" he questioned before he saw someone unfamiliar to him take a step forward.
"Sorry, but Kakashi couldn't make it," Yamato said, standing ahead of the group. Naruto spared him a side glance, his smile faltering. "We of Team Kakashi are here to take you back to Konoha."
"Team Kakashi, huh?"
"One day, a time will come when I believe people will truly come to understand one another."
Naruto raised a palm to his forehead, suddenly remembering his master's words. His eyes grew wide as he looked at his hand, seeing it was the slightest bit damp.
Sasuke's eyes blankly stared as his replacement lifted his tanto, pointing it at the boy, showing he was prepared for battle.
Sakura narrowed her eyes at the boy's action. Does he intend to kill him...? Is this part of his assignment by Danzo as well?
"My stand-in, huh?" Sasuke asked in a lazy tone, "He said something about wanting to protect the bond between Naruto and me... but he looks like another weakling to me." Sai gripped the hilt of his blade tightly, his hand trembling slightly from the pressure exerted.
"Initially, my mission was to kill you..." the pale boy began, causing Sakura to narrow her eyes, Yamato to look on with a knowing stare, and Naruto to remain silent, closing his eyes as he took a deep breath. "...But, I'm done following orders―I want to think for myself." Sai glanced towards Naruto, who turned his head, giving the boy his full attention. The boy's features hardened as he spoke. "I feel like you can help me remember, Naruto―to bring back the memories I had lost..." Naruto raised an eyebrow, confused as to what the boy was referring to. "...The things that were once very important to me―" the boy paused to take a breath, "I hadn't told you this, but you remind me of my brother―in the manner of speech and how you act as well; bold, brash, but with good intentions." Naruto's eyes closed as he hummed in thought, not knowing how to respond, if at all.
"As for you, Sasuke," the boy said, shifting his focus to the stoic Uchiha, "I don't know much about you, but what I do know is that Naruto and Sakura are willing to risk everything for you..." Naruto and Sakura both gave Sai a perplexed look, noticing how the boy had now broken out of his shell. "...to protect that bond..." Sai continued, "...in the name of friendship." He glared at the boy as he uttered his next words. "I don't know much about it, personally, but don't you, Sasuke?" The raven-haired Uchiha smirked.
"Yeah, I did. It's exactly why I cut them off," he spat out in a lifeless tone. Naruto's fists clenched, blood seeping through his knuckles and dripping to the ground. "I have different bonds now..." he said, causing Naruto to glare and Sakura to look shocked, her mouth slightly agape. Yamato's face looked pensive while Sai remained with the same expressionless look. "...the bond of hatred between my older brother and I." Naruto's eyes narrowed to slits, his mouth twisting into a frown. "Personal ties only confuse," Sasuke said with a downcast look, remembering his brother's words.
Itachi's nails dug into a younger Sasuke's skin, leaving marks as he the boy up by his throat, slamming him against a wall with a demeaning look on his features. His blood-red Sharingan flared to life, giving the boy an even darker countenance that left Sasuke breathless―literally and figuratively.
"You're still too weak―you don't have..." the boy's body fell limply to the ground as his older brother dropped him unceremoniously. His head drooped down in shame as the boy walked away.
"Personal ties cause confusion..."
Naruto's eyes flashed to a deep crimson before returning to cerulean.
"Precious memories only make you weak." Sakura and Sai heard an audible snarl next to them. Upon turning their heads, they realized it was Naruto. Yamato's face turned grim.
If this goes on...
The only blond of Team 7 snickered, irritating the monologuing Uchiha.
"Killing me that day would've broken that bond, right? And yet..." a cloud of smoke puffed into existence beside Sasuke, a blonde identical to the one on the ground emerging. Orochimaru and Kabuto watched as the clone rested his arm around Sasuke's shoulder in a friendly gesture. Coal-black eyes met with cerulean as the clone's cheek was mere centimeters apart from Sasuke's.
"...You couldn't―" the Uchiha trained his eyes on the original, "―'cause why? You were afraid...?"
"The reason is simple..."
Lightning crackled around Sasuke's hand as he thrust it forward, aiming it towards the blond's lung.
"You, just like me, have the power to awaken the Mangekyo Sharingan... but the catch..."
A look of shock crossed the Uchiha's face as Naruto redirected the blow, the hand to pierce through his shoulder instead with a sickening squelch, Sasuke's hand emerging through the blond's body coated with blood.
"...Is you have to kill your closest friend..."
The Naruto clone dispelled in a cloud of smoke, electricity dancing across the Uchiha's fingers as his arm fell to his side.
"I was simply doing as my brother did before me. It was a strategy to gain power." Naruto's expression remained unchanged as the boy appeared right beside him, arm draped around his shoulder in the same position he had done to him prior, only facing the other way. A dust cloud formed at the feet of Team 7's members from the speed at which the boy moved, shocking all but the blond. "I spared your life on a whim," he began in a cold emotionless tone, "nothing more."
He's fast...! Yamato mentally exclaimed, shocked at being caught off guard.
"Was it not your dream to become Hokage?" Sasuke mockingly questioned in the blond's ear, "I hope you've been training to catch up and not daydreaming about chasing me."
"If Sakura and I can't save you from yourself..." he began, glancing at the back of the raven-haired boy's head when he heard a click, signifying an unsheathed sword, "...we can't call ourselves your friends, now can we?" Aiming for a stab to the back, Sasuke drew his sword back before thrusting it towards the base of Naruto's spine. In a split second, Sai caught the wrist the boy held his weapon with, holding it up in the air.
"That block you chose..." Sasuke said in a low tone, "...was correct."
"About being Hokage..." Naruto began, staring blankly ahead as a clone of him burst through the ground, hitting the Uchiha square in the chin, sending him yards high. It was just in time as well, because soon after, the ground was lit with electricity, Naruto using his strong affinity over the wind to negate it before it harmed his teammates.
"Chidori Stream!" Sasuke shouted, Sharingan flaring to life. The boy twisted in the air, allowing the wind to secure his momentum as he fell back to the ground, spinning on his heels and aiming a sword strike towards the blond. Lightning crackled and danced around the metal, lighting the sword up with a blue hue. A clap was heard as Naruto raised his hands, slamming his palms against the sword and catching it mid-strike, causing the electricity to dissipate.
"...Worry about your ambition first," Naruto said, completing the phrase he had left hanging before.
"So, you used wind chakra to combat my lightning...? It seems you've become competent," the Uchiha said with mild surprise in his voice. "But that block..." the boy said, cheeks puffing up as he inhaled a large amount of air, causing Naruto's eyes to narrow, "...Was incorrect!" he shouted as a stream of fire escaped his mouth, engulfing the blond in a sea of flames. Sasuke, with his enhanced dexterity, deftly dodged the wooden spike protrusions that attempted to impale him coming from the ground. A look of shock showed on the boy's face as mid-jump, a human-sized boulder flew at him at great speeds. Unable to dodge, even with his better eyesight, the boy took the hard route and stuck his sword in the ground, getting the timing just right as he used the weapon to spin around the rock, watching as it crashed behind him in a shower of debris. Orochimaru licked his lips as the boy returned to his position looming over Team 7.
I'm glad I made those flame-retardant clothing seals, Naruto thought as he looked over himself, seeing minor burns on his clothing.
Sakura dusted her hands off the dirt that ended up on her gloves as she stared down at her former teammate. Glad Naruto's alright, she thought, before looking to her other teammates. Seeing they too were fine, she let out a breath of relief.
Yamato's brow was covered with sweat as he mulled over the proceedings. If a battle between these two ensues, it's possible even the collateral damage would kill us! We have to end this, quick-but we don't know whether or not Orochimaru and Kabuto will step in...
"So, you would rather have Orochimaru steal your body for power, than reestablish those bonds that you severed―even if the former causes you more pain?" Naruto said, dusting himself off and patting himself down. His cerulean eyes met the coal-black ones that looked down on him for years; now, in a literal sense. Sasuke sighed exasperatedly.
"If it happens to me, so be it." The phrase put all of Team 7 into stunned silence, as they stared in disbelief. "I don't care what happens to me or the rest of the world, so long as I get my revenge. Nothing else matters. To be honest, neither Orochimaru nor I am yet strong enough to defeat Itachi on our own. But, if I gain the power to beat Itachi by giving myself to Orochimaru, so be it." The wind howled angrily as Sasuke spoke, Naruto's face donning a serious look.
"'Aight, fuck this talking," he said, the bandaged fabric around his arms loosening.
Sasuke raised his left hand after doing a set of seals. "Couldn't have said it better myself." A pale hand gripped the boy's forearm, stopping him from releasing whatever jutsu he had planned.
A deep rumbling was heard. All members of Team 7 apart from Naruto turned their gazes towards the now-forming storm clouds. Darkness slowly enveloped the area the group of ninjas was standing in. Orochimaru gave Sasuke a sideways glance.
"Now, now, no need to be hasty Sasuke-Kun," he said. The tone in his voice indicated he knew something their opposition didn't. "You understand why you can't kill them, right?" Sasuke scoffed.
"The Akatsuki's on the move," Kabuto clarified, a hand on his hip as he chastised the Uchiha. "We want these Konoha people to dispose of as many Akatsuki members as possible. Those meddlesome people would only get in the way of your precious revenge, is that not correct?" he reasoned
"Quite the pathetic reason," Sasuke replied flatly, raising an open palm to the sky. Naruto narrowed his eyes. The second he did, a gust of wind picked up, dusting kicking up in the crater he and his team were standing in. Sai, Sakura, and Yamato all covered their faces using their forearms, Sai gripping the tanto on his back in preparation, Sakura clenching a fist, and Yamato extending another hand in preparation to use his Wood Release. The winds picked up, even more, causing the entire crater to be surrounded by dust. Just as Naruto's face disappeared from view, Sasuke leaped forward, a sound emulating crackling lightning emanating from his step. He unsheathed his blade with a smooth swiftness and practiced ease.
Naruto lunged forward with just as much intensity, a look of calm fury on his face. He noticed Sasuke put his blade in a thrust-like motion, seemingly intending to stab him in the chest, said blade crackling with sparks of electricity periodically. Time slowed down as Naruto spread his arms out wide. Coal-black eyes met cerulean blue and with cries of the other's name they clashed.
A spark of light was seen by Orochimaru and Kabuto, the only ones who were unaffected by the dust storm, and the former licked his lips in anticipation. Kabuto pushed his glasses slightly up the bridge of his nose, smirking, although he was anxious. When Naruto and Sasuke clashed, the force of their collision blew back the dust and debris, clearing the way. Everyone sans Orochimaru stood wide-eyed with shock at the development. At the center of the crater, Naruto held Sasuke's blade in a barehanded block. Wind chakra quickly overtook lightning and Sasuke let out a grunt at the sheer strength in Naruto's hold. Said boy had a serious yet bored look on his face that was infuriating to the Uchiha.
"What's wrong, idiot? Frozen with fear―" was all he got out before he grunted once again, feeling an intense pressure put upon him that caused him to stumble. It felt as though his weight had been multiplied by dozens. He quickly fell to his knees, Naruto's hold on the blade loosening, and as that was his only support he was forced to his hands as he watched the sword fall to the ground with a heavy clang.
It feels like my body weighs several tons! He forced his head up to look at Naruto who was staring at him with an impassive, condescending gaze. "What... did you do?!" he found it a struggle to speak but grit out those words to gain some semblance of understanding towards his current predicament. He saw the corner of the blonde's mouth turn upwards slightly and widened his eyes as he looked behind the orange and black-clad boy. On the ground in the same position as he, there were Naruto's teammates, though faring far worse than him. Wait... then that means? He slowly turned his head with catastrophic amounts of difficulty to see Kabuto and Orochimaru, the former on one knee panting heavily and the latter hunched over in an attempt to stand straight, his bangs shadowing his face. The sannin had a grimace on his face and a yellow, slitted eye held a fierce glare that was directed towards Sasuke's former teammate.
"That... fool..." came the gravelly voice of Orochimaru, "...he taught you... sealing?!" he half-exclaimed half-hissed out. Naruto did not attempt to respond and simply crouched down to eye-level with the now glaring Uchiha. An infuriatingly large grin was plastered on his face.
"Ne, Bastard, look!" he said cheerily, pointing a finger to the sky. As Sasuke attempted to do so, a swift breeze blew by him and he saw that the thunderclouds he formed quickly dispersed, the sun shining brightly with its rays peeking through the clouds and illuminating the cheery blonde. Sasuke grit his teeth, dropping his head, not of his own will, to glower at his ex-teammate. How could this lowlife scum be able to put him in such a precarious position with such little difficulty? It was simply preposterous! "You see, teme, gravity affects us all," he began in a lecturing tone, "It surrounds you and me both, your pedophile of a teacher and his sex slave with the silver hair!" the two insulted men glared at the blonde with their killer intent aimed at him which easily washed over him. He sighed exasperatedly. "That's the only hint I can give you, Sasuke~chan. Not gonna reveal my abilities; that would be stupid wouldn't it?" he said with a chuckle. Sasuke's fingers dug into the ground and sweat poured off his body from the strain. He growled as he attempted to stand in an upright position, completely neglecting his sword.
Retreat, retreat! We must retreat! Orochimaru thought in panic. His thoughts were intruded upon by a deep chuckle. Looking towards its source he bit back a curse. Naruto, who was now standing, had his hand on his head, fingers intertwined with his blonde locks as he had a crazed look in his eye. Quickly, his eyes shifted from blue to a deep crimson with slitted irises. He licked his lips, blood trailing down his tongue as it passed over his elongated canines. The blond's one visible stared at Sasuke. Team 7 quickly understood what was going on, as they felt the intense pressure of Naruto's ki radiating off of him stacked with the increased gravity, which was a fierce combination, nigh impossible to break. Naruto raised one leg straight up, staring intensely at the hunched form of Sasuke who was glaring daggers at him with eyes of the same color, only with 3-comma shaped marks spinning wildly.
"Dodge," he whispered out, quickly dropping the gravity seals as well as his leg in an ax-kick towards the Uchiha's head. With his enhanced depth perception due to his bloodline, Sasuke was able to get evade Naruto's kick just barely, which was aimed at his back, but his head still took a great deal of damage, and his face was buried deep into the dirt. Orochimaru lunged towards the boy's downed form but was flanked by another Naruto who buried his foot ankle-deep into the sannin's gut, sending the Snake Sage flying into the side of the crater, his body's imprint forming its own mini-crater. The Naruto that hit him quickly 'poofed' and disappeared in a cloud of smoke. Yamato quickly flashed through hand signs, thick, wooden spikes protruding from the ground, soaring towards the downed Uchiha as Sakura and Sai deftly ran atop the wooden precipices. They soared past Naruto and were mere inches from ensnaring Sasuke before a crunching sound was heard. Kabuto's hand, which was in the form of a knife easily sliced through the jutsu like a knife through butter, and he quickly picked up Sasuke, stumbling a bit at seeing the cold and apathetic stare Naruto sent towards him. Sakura quickly withdrew four senbon needles from her pouch and threw them at Kabuto, aiming them towards his face, but the silver-haired lab assistant blocked them with such precision using his medical-chakra-enhanced fingernails. Sai attempted to flank his side, his tanto drawn, but took a heel to the gut for his efforts. Sakura quickly caught the pale boy and her feet dug into the ground as she skidded across the crater from the force.
Orochimaru, who was slumped over in his personal crater started coughing raspily, blood trickling down his lip and droplets soaking the ground. He gave a twisted grin towards Naruto before mouthing something and vanishing, his form getting engulfed by flames, not leaving a trace. His subordinates followed right after in the same fashion.
Sakura panted, whether, from the exertion of the gravity and Naruto's chakra or the mental strain from meeting her long-gone teammate, she didn't know. She let Sai go before collapsing on the ground in a heap, turning her head to see Sasuke's blade. She saw a bandaged hand pick it up before seeing Naruto's scrutinizing gaze towards the object. Sai watched the blond carefully, sheathing his own blade.
Yamato sighed, sweat pouring down his brow. "Well, we have an object of his, so we're guaranteed to have his scent with us at all times," he gave a pointed look towards Naruto who nodded. Flicking the hand that wasn't holding the blade, a scroll appeared and he twirled it between his fingers before unfurling it, giving a glance towards the calligraphy on it before making a one-handed ram sign. The blade disappeared in a poof of smoke and Naruto rolled up the scroll, taking an ink brush out of seemingly nowhere before he deftly slid the brush across the scroll, inscribing the words "Bastard's Blade". Yamato sweatdropped, Sai gave Naruto a blank stare and Sakura stared in shock and awe.
That was like magic! She thought, sparkles in her eyes. I wonder how he made that scroll appear. Was it in his sleeve? Or... As the pink-haired girl mulled over whether or not her teammate was a magician, the rest of Team 7 stood in silent contemplation. Naruto thought back to a comical scene that had taken place in his mindscape.
Sasuke looked straight ahead, glaring intensely at the figure of Naruto sitting atop the snout of the Nine-Tailed Fox of Legends. "To think you had something like this inside of you... I see now the source of your power..." Sasuke said, letting the sentence hang in the air. The fox laughed, a deep rumbling sound resonating within the mindscape, causing it to shake. Sasuke wobbled, attempting to use chakra to remain steady but felt his control slip. Naruto leaped off of his friend's snout, landing in front of the Uchiha with a quiet splash. He ran a hand through his hair blond hair, snickering.
"The fact you retain your arrogance even when it's ill-placed, it's humorous," he said, continuing to give a fox-like snicker. Sasuke walked right past the blond, ignoring his taunts before stopping right in front of the fox, glaring up at the creature that stared at him with a wicked grin. "Kurama," Naruto said, sticking a finger in his ear, "Don't hurt him too badly." Kurama snorted before coming as close to eye-level as was possible to the intruder of the mindscape.
Sasuke felt the hot gust of breath hit his face and winced as it almost blew him back. "Your eyes... Those accursed eyes..." Kurama said with a growl, causing ripples in the water beneath Sasuke's feet. Naruto turned his head slightly to watch the current scene play out. "They're similar to that of Madara Uchiha's..."
Both boys had quirked eyebrows, the Uchiha though, frowned.
"I know not of any such person," he said with a scowl, reaching out his hand to grasp the fox's snout. Sasuke was blasted back into nonexistence by the laugh that came from the fox. Naruto chuckled, his shoulders shaking before it turned into a burst of deep laughter.
Seeing Naruto's shoulders tremble, Present Sai mistook it as a sign the blond was disappointed, sad, or even angry at himself for allowing Sasuke to escape. He reached out a hand to place it on the boy's shoulder comfortingly before he heard chuckles. Chuckles soon turned into laughs. Naruto hunched over, grasping his stomach as he struggled to stand.
A/N: I've had this in my NotePad for 'bout 2 1/2 months. Glad I can finally upload it. Shorter than usual because I want the content I cut to be in the next chapter.