Disclaimer: As always, I own none of what exists in the Naruto world. I only semi-own the girls brought in (and totally own the general plot). The girls are loosely based, and by now "loosely" is definitely the key word, on friends of mine, though considering how much they have changed over the course of the story, they are hardly who they are now. There are also bits of three songs scattered throughout this chapter: "New Divide" by Linkin Park, "Believe" by Yellowcard, and "Utopia" by Within Temptation.
Author's Note (Long, but please read!): I live! Yes, yes, I do. I am so sorry about my extended absence, everyone. The last year or so of college was so hectic that I hardly had time (or the want, really) to do any sort of "free writing," i.e., writing for myself, especially since I was taking a Fiction Writing course where I had to do a great deal of "deadline writing." The worst part of that was that we weren't allowed to write any "genre fiction," e.g., Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Horror, etc. Everything had to be "based off of real life." To be honest, I find real life rather boring sometimes. I live it every day. Why would I want to write about it? /endrant.
Anyway, I had this huge plan for how things would go for the rest of Fanglrz II: Legends, and had even gotten a few snippets written when I could, but things just didn't want to fit together properly. I felt like there were too many gaps between points A, B, and Z for me to feel comfortable posting anything just yet. So my plot bunnies kind of festered...and got fat...and dumb...and far too content with being lazy...until recently, which is where this chapter came from. It's a bit strange. I'll warn you now. It's rather broken and jumps around between snippets of events, but there is purpose behind it: to set up for Fangrlz III: Equivalence. But don't worry, Equivalence will be peppered with flashbacks and whatnot of what happened during the time that skipped. That way you can see some of those snippets without having to wait for my bunnies to figure all the details out.
Yes, in a way that is cheating, but I feel so bad making you all wait for so long, especially with all of the positive review that are still coming in. Thank you, by the way, to all of the people still reading. I am so glad you all are enjoying it and I hope this new move will not disappoint too much. I will tell you now: there is going to be a major shift in Fangrlz III: Equivalence, not only in the point of view (which will be limited to only one of the girls) but also in the setting. It will be explained in the prologue soon to come, and there will still be glimpses of the other girls (and possibly more) in the flashbacks, but to make things easier for me and spur my plot bunnies into entertaining you all further. I have always looked forward to getting to Fangrlz III for the freedom and creativity it will give me, and I hope you all will enjoy it as much as I do playing with it in my head.
So, without further ado, here is the last chapter of Fangrlz II: Legends. Enjoy! And good luck figuring out what is going on and guessing what is coming after!
Chapter ##: ERROR!
Thɘy sAy thɐt trʊTh wiLl sƎt ɏou freɘ,
Buƫ TrutĦ has ŋow iMprIsønɘd ᴟe.
The soft murmur of civilians seems ever-present behind me, amplified by the stone tunnels of this in-mountain safe house. I glance back at my current companions - genin all. Some look nervous, others confused, and a select few hold an admirable (or perhaps foolish and naïve) amount of determination in their pre-teen eyes. Perhaps the most courageous of the group is Konohamaru. No surprise there, really. Between complaining about not being included on the front lines and making sure everyone is alert and ready for anything, the Third Hokage's grandson is definitely keeping busy. He doesn't give himself time to be worried, which is a good thing. I suspect that if he starts to worry, then the other genin will fall apart as well.
It's the sign of a good leader, I guess - remaining calm and positive in the face of danger aNɖ ɘveRy løSs and certain death.
I find the kids looking to me as much as they do to Konohamaru - if not more so - for reassurance as time goes on. That's probably because I'm the oldest one here. They might not know me too well, but age and orders draw them to me. The genin, after all, have been placed under my direction. There's not a single ANBU about, and I wonder if I should be grateful or honored for it. That very fact, when Tsunade informed me that I alone would be responsible for this particular part of the village defenses. It's a great sign of trust - one that turns my stomach.
Nonetheless, I don't hold back in reassuring the genin that all will be well. The civilians have nothing Akatsuki wants, I tell them. They have no reason to come here, and if by some odd twist of fate they do appear, then we can surely overwhelm them with sheer numbers. True, the Akatsuki are all S-ranked criminals, but we have something they don't – a good reason to fight – people to protect. We can't let them through, and thus we won't.
That seems to calm them down somewhat whenever they seek my attention, leaving me to resume my watch over the entrance tunnel. That is what I tell them, though I know that a good deal of it aɲd ɛVery lɨɘ isn't true.
Despite all the earlier bravado, the genin freeze up at the sound of slowly-approaching footsteps. Heck, even with my knowledge, my blood runs cold at the sight of the pair of red-clouded cloaks. I peer through the gloom, trying to discern faces. Shapes however, prove more than enough to determine the identities of our visitors before they get close enough for anything more.
My hand moves to my kunai pouch as I speak urgently to the kids behind me. "Stand your ground!" I order. "It's Itachi Uchiha and Kisame Hoshigaki. Whatever you do, don't look into the shorter one's eyes and stay away from the blue one's sword. Hold. This. Position. Got it? Don't let them through!"
"That was a nice little speech, shrimp," Kisame drawls as he and Itachi halt about ten yards out. "But I'm afraid we'll be passing through your little kindergarten whether you let us or not."
Behind me, Kohohamaru starts barking out more orders, stirring the genin from their rooted spots - my second-in-command I guess. I frown. It wouldn't do for them to rush in blindly and get themselves needlessly killed. "Konohamaru!" I call back. "Have everyone keep their distance. Only engage them if they get past me. Got it?"
"But -" he starts to object.
"That's an order aɲD evϵrʎ tɹuTʜ!" I snap.
With an angry growl of affirmation, the scarf-wearing boy gets to work. I take a step toward the Akatsuki team. "You won't be getting past me," I tell them, feeling the familiar hum of chakra in my head.
Kisame leers, shark-like in the dim tunnel. "We'll see."
Without warning, a roaring fireball rushes through the darkness tHaʇ yʘu dəNy, the blistering heat and light filling the corridor of stone. Blocking out the cries of alarm behind me, I slide a foot back and move my hands through a chain of signs before clapping them together. Lightning Style: Shield of the Thunder God! Sparks leap along the trail of my outstretched hands, crackling angrily as the flames bear down on me. The fireball collides with my wall of electricity in a deafening explosion. Dust and stone fly, creating a sort of smoke screen between me and my opponents.
"Shiznit," I faux-curse softly, eyes darting back and forth, watching for any unnatural shift in the dust cloud. There! I don't have much time to react as Kisame roars through, swinging Samehada downward in an arc toward my head.
There are no few cries of alarm from behind me, their warnings coming a tad bit late to be of any real use. Nonetheless, I manage to dodge out of the way just in time. I can feel the air displaced by the thick blade as it sweeps past me to slam into the floor, making the stone crack and buckle under such force. Whirling to face Kisame (and to build up strength for my counterattack), I grab the sword hanging across the small of my back in an under-handed grip and draw it smoothly, turning the draw into a fast cross slash.
Kisame - the inarguably more experienced swordsman - predicts the move and brings up Samehada to block it. Our blades lock, chakra steel to . . . cloth-covered scales? I must look laughably tiny compared to the towering shark-man and his equally massive sword, but I can't let that distract me aɲd ǝaƆh rEgЯet. The man in question leers. "Careful, you might poke someone's eye out."
I spot movement behind Kisame through the corner of my eye. Itachi - I can't let him come into play as well. I can't take them both on at once.
But there's nothing I can do about it. He lunges past his partner, kunai in hand, and launches into a rapid barrage of taijutsu strikes. I block and duck, slipping into an oddly natural, dance-like duel with the Uchiha, neither of us seeming to be able to place a solid hit. He must be saving the full strength of his Sharingan for a more important battle - his fight with Sasuke, perhaps - and relying on his regular fighting instincts. My blade connects with his wrist, and a reverberating clang echoes through the tunnel, making my eyes widen slightly. He must be wearing metal bracers for an event such as this.
His counterattack barely misses my throat as I flip backwards, planting my feet on the tunnel wall and leaping over him. My downward slash at his head is parried with a pair of kunai, tearing my sword from my grasp and sending it skidding across the dirt floor, but that's the least of my worries. The wrapped shape of Kisame's shark-sword descends upon me as I land, forcing me to turn that land into a forward roll. Rising to a crouch, I sweep one foot out toward his ankles, forcing the swordsman to retreat slightly.
"Aren't you a lucky one," he sneers, shifting his grip on Samehada. "But that luck won't last much longer."
My eyes flick to my sword and I inwardly curse as Itachi steps smoothly between me anD eA₡h g∞dbʎe and it. There's no way I'm going to be able to retrieve it now, and this tunnel does not leave much space for maneuvering. He's right. I've been incredibly lucky so far.
Movement. My eyes snap back forward in time to see Kisame chopping his massive sword down toward me again. I react instinctively, lifting my hands and - catching the end of the wrapped blade? Eyes widening, I catch my breath in my throat. No. Bad idea. Very bad idea! Kisame grins, and I can feel the scales start to move beneath my skin. They'll tear my hands to shreds! Frantically, I reach down into my chakra wells and shove as much pure lightning chakra as I can into the connection between myself and the demonic sword. Eat this!
Purple-white lightning explodes around my hands, crackling and leaping into the chakra-hungry sword, making it seem to glow and spark itself. Suddenly, an inhuman shriek fills the stone corridor. I snatch my hands back and stumble away, covering my ears as the sound pierces my head like a lance. wAs ɒ miƧƮaƙE My vision swims, and over the din, I barely manage to hear Kisame shout in alarm, "Samehada!"
I crack my eyes open, heart hammering in my chest. What are they doing? What's going on? The shrieking seems to fade, and my vision stabilizes to see Itachi and Kisame . . . running away? Indeed, the two are retreating quickly down the tunnel, and Konohamaru is suddenly at my side, grabbing my arm. "Katie? Katie, are you okay?" I nod numbly and he lets out a sudden laugh. "Dude, that was awesome! You gotta teach me how to do that lightning thing! And the way you kept up with that one guy - with both of them! You're amazing!"
I'm moving before he can finish talking, quickly crossing to my sword and picking it up. t∞ grƎAt tɵ hIƌe "Katie? Where are you going?"
"Go back to the others," I order him sternly, starting after the Akatsuki pair. "I'm going to make sure they're actually gone. Don't follow me, Konohamaru!" I look back over my shoulder, and he stops in his tracks. Pressing his lips together, he nods sharply, turns, and starts running the other way. Letting out a sigh and tightening my grip on the sword, I race toward the exit.
Thɛy saɏ that dƎath wiLl cʘMe foЯ ɐLl,
Buʇ ɨ have ʎet to heAr the ₡alL.
Pain explodes in my back as I slam through the stone wall. Stars dance in my eyes, the world spinning sickeningly around me. The voice of my assailant sounds muffled as if spoken from a distance or through water. I can't understand a single thing he says. I attempt to rise from the rubble, gritting my teeth against the pain. I can't give up now. I have to keep fighting against these bastards for Konoha - for Sam.
I can hear Akamaru barking nearby, calling frantically for me. His voice, however, is cut suddenly off by a sickening crack and a sharp yelp cLiᴟbinG hIghɛЯ. "Akamaru!" A burst of adrenaline floods my veins and I push myself to my feet with a murderous growl.
As I turn to attack, however, a too-strong hand clamps down on my neck and cuts off my air supply. Frantic, I try to grab and claw at the arm, but only find my hands tangling in a thick weave of black threads. I can't break through them. My mind begins to fog from lack of oxygen as I drop one hand to my kunai pouch. Once I grab one of the knives, though, I can't find the strength to lift it.
I'm sorry, Sam, I faintly think as my vision fades to black. I lied. I won't be right behind you. Not this time . . .
An angry cry cuts through my fading world - a voice that I thought ʇhЯøugH thɘ fiRe I'd never hear again. "Fire Style! Blazing Tsunami Jutsu!"
Heat surrounds me and the grip on my throat vanishes, leaving me to crumple gasping to the ground. Almost immediately, a smaller hand takes my upper arm, gently but firmly shaking me. "Kiba! Kiba, come on! Snap out of it!"
I know that voice, my mind states foggily.
"Don't make me slap you, dog boy, 'cause I will! Wake up!"
"I'm awake," I growl, coughing as I push myself up and lift my head to look at the speaker.
Sam leans over me, the fires around us casting odd shadows across her face. The intensity in her eyes catches me off-guard at first. I almost don't recognize her with that expression of barely-contained fury with a slight touch of concern, but then I see her. The sarcastic imp that so captured my heart is in there, though something is still off, and I can't quite place what.
That something reveals itself when she nods sharply at me and tIMe waƧ ɹUŋɲing ouƮ turns her face to the flames. The fire illuminates the left side of her face - the side that had been previously cast in shadows. Dark, flame-like bruises mark the skin of her face, neck, and shoulder, the sight of which send a chill down my spine. As I stare at them, wide-eyed, I realize that they're not bruises. They're something much more sinister.
Beneath my gaze, the markings slowly inch down her left arm and across the rest of her face. As they do, Sam rises from her crouch, neƔeR ƙNoʍinġ turning to fully face the inferno. Her expression twists even further into one of pure fury, the flames hissing and crackling as if reflecting the intense emotion.
"Sam?" I call to her cautiously over the roar of the blaze, pushing myself painfully to my feet.
At first she makes no reply - shows no sign that she heard me. Then, she turns her head ever so slightly in my direction, though her eyes remain stubbornly on the blaze. "Get Akamaru out of here," she orders sharply, her voice in an icy monotone that drastically counters the heat radiating around her.
My heart hammers in my chest, eyes catching sight of movement on the other side of the wall of fire. I reach out to her. "I'm not leaving you here, Sam."
As my fingers touch her arm, she jerks it away as if stung and turns on me. "Go!" she practically yells, ɏoU wEᴚen'ʇ gʘınG the command ringing in my sensitive ears.
I stumble back in surprise. Sam's left eye has taken on a red-orange hue, and I'm not talking about her iris. Her entire eye glows with unearthly light, almost as if I'm staring into pure, roiling, angry chakra. My breath catches in my chest. This isn't right. Something's wrong with her.
Still, though my heart wants to reach out and help her - to draw her back from whatever darkness she's fallen into - my instincts scream at me to do as she says. To run to my soul-bound partner and get out of there. That wild part of me knows that this eye - these fires - hold death, and it wants to get as far away from them as possible.
Sam returns her attention to the flames, her right eye succumbing as well to the fiery glow. I whirl and bound through the rubble, ignoring my screaming muscles and joints as I dodge the crackling fires tɵ ße ₡oMiɲg ƌoʍn ɐLivɘ. Akamaru lays limp in the corner of the destroyed building, his fur matted and bloody. I drop to a knee beside him. "Akamaru! Akamaru, answer me!"
His tail thumps weakly against the ground in greeting, a wheezing whimper escaping his chest as he cracks an eye open to look up at me. "Kiba," he whines."It hurts."
I stroke his head, fighting back tears. "It's alright, boy. Hang in there. Stay with me, Akamaru!"
Akamaru's breathing steadies slightly, ƃuT yøu ƧtiLŁ though I can tell he's still having trouble. That Jashinist bastard must've broken a rib or two. "Sam came back for us." caᴟe ßacƙ ɟor mϵ
I shush him. "I know. I know. Don't try to talk, buddy. Save your strength. We gotta get out of here."
My best friend in the whole world snorts softly before struggling to roll onto his stomach. Realizing what he wants to do, I help him steady himself. Worry grips my chest as I see him wince in pain. Anger flares. That Jashinist is going to pay for what he's done to Akamaru.
Panting from the effort of the motion, my canine partner watches the fires dance around us before testing the air with his superior sense of smell. Eyebrows furrowing, I do the same. "What is it, buddy? What do you smell?" All I can make out is smoke, blood, and soot - all of which are killing my senses.
"Sam,"he replies with an almost puzzled expression. "She burns - inside and out."
"What?" Before I can even begin to understand yOʊ wƎRe sƮroNġ what he's talking about, the fire roar upward and then pull away, twisting tightly into a column of flames and revealing Sam once more to me - or, I think it's Sam. The creature in before the fire hardly looks human anymore, though, frighteningly, I can still see Sam within it.
She's still dressed in that orange and black tunic, though her armored leggings have shredded, apparently to make room for the changes to her legs, which appear to be bent one too many times. That's an illusion, though, I know. Really, the last bend is almost the equivalent of an ankle and she's standing on the balls of her over-large feet, claws digging into the ground. Her skin has darkened to an almost leathery grey - her hands now more like talons. She shifts her weight forward into a crouch, reptilian tail whipping out behind her and lips peeling back in a snarl to reveal fangs.
The term 'dragon' comes to mind, and my chest tightens at the sight of her. Is this the power of the Cursed Seal? aNɖ ʎoU bəLıeƔed
Tɥeɏ ƧaY thɐT ƌaWn ƒolŁoʍs tHe ŋiGht,
ßut I hAʌe løst my wıLl to fiGhʇ.
Tsunade glares at Katie, but I can't help but stare in shock. How could she do all of that? I thought she was one of the good guys! "Do you have anything to say in your defense?" Tsunade growls. ʍhʎ ƌoEs iT ᴚaIɲ The girl remains silent, staring at the ground. "Very well, with my power as the Hokage, and facing the unquestionable facts, Яaɨn you are hereby found guilty of treason and will be executed at first light tomorrow morning." Tsunade waves a hand at the ANBU holding Katie. rAiŋ "Take her to a cell and make sure she stays there."
A gasp and shout draws my attention from the cloak Katie is wearing. "No!" Kaitlyn cries, surging forward. "Over my dead body she is!"
Gaara quickly grabs her and pulls her back to his side. "Kaitlyn," he says, soft voice carrying a warning and reprimand.
"No!" She struggles against his grasp, breaking free and planting herself between Katie and the rest of us. "If you want her, you're going to have to go dʘwN oɲ UtoƥiA through me and pry her from my cold, dead fingers!"
My red-headed friend stares at her, shocked. "You defend her even after all she's done? She gave them information that got Sam killed, Kaitlyn."
"She would never do that on purpose! Ever! Katie loves us!"
I tear my gaze from her to glance at Jowan and Ashley. Both are just staring at Katie, dumbfounded. This was a shock to all of them. None of them knew wĦy doƎs iʇ she would do this. She really had betrayed their trust. A shiver of anger sweeps through me, as I look back to the still-ranting Kaitlyn. I can feel the Kyuubi reach for that anger, but I don't have time for him. Not right now.
Kaitlyn flings a hand toward the half-standing Hokage building. "Plus, the guys she killed in there were our enemy! Their only role was to make everyone's lives difficult! She did you all a favor!"
Slight gasps and murmurs of outrage trickle through the crowd. Danzo shifts forward, single eye sharp and glaring. "Watch what you hɐƔe tø say, girl. Saying that sort of thing could be considered treason in and of itself."
"You're a bad guy, too!" Kaitlyn jabs a finger at him.
"ƙiLl The council and I have always acted in Konoha's best interests," he counters, frowning.
Kankuro shifts, reaching toward the near-hysterical girl to draw her back to safety before she gets herself into trouble. "This is how things work here, Kaitlyn. She is a traitor - turned against her friends and allies - lied to and deceived us. This is her punishment. This is the results of her actions. There is nothing you can do to stop it. Even she's accepted it." He motions to Katie. She has not made any sort of move - just standing still and solemn between the pair of ANBU.
"Shut up!" Kaitlyn cries, shaking her head rapidly.
Before she can continue to spout tʜe iɖϵa oF denials, another voice joins the fray. "Kaitlyn," Katie snaps, the single word sharp, dark, and full of some barely-bridled emotion. Immediately, silence falls over the gathered shinobi - tension gathering thickly in the air. This is the first time Katie has spoken. I focus on her, as she lifts her head slowly and levels ice-cold eyes on her so-called friend. Her expression is hard as she bites out two more words, "Shut. Up."
"He is! You know what he does! It's the tr-"
"Stop it, Kaitlyn. That's enough," Katie interrupts harshly, eyes narrowing. "Do us all a favor, and shut up! You're such an idiot - so naïve! I'm surprised someone hasn't killed you yet because you just don't know when to shut your mouth and stop screeching useless, pointless, and utterly stupid shit. Get wHɵ wə aRe your head out of the fucking clouds and grow up!"
Sø i a₡cept tHɐt I aM ȷaiŁed.
Iɲ Ƨin, ɨn ɖeaƮh, in tЯutʜ: I fAilƎd.
WhiTe nOïse. My head feels as if a thousand bees have taken up residence. The buzɀ rings behind my eyes – my eɐrs. My teeth ache, and I can taste the tang of iron on my tongue. I run the muƧcle over the inside of my mouth to check for any sores. I do not remember biting myself, but then again, my most recent memories are fuȤzy. For some reason, I feel as if I should be angry – as if there is someone to blame for the dull throb of ƥain through my limbs and the ragged hole in my heart.
After a time, I force my eyes open despite the crust of salt and ash cakɛd over them. I immediately regret the decision as white light assaults my retinas. A groan escapes my parched lips as my eyelids fall back shʊt. That definitely did nothing to help my headache.
A low chuckle echoes strangely from somewhere above – behind? – my head. "Take your time, little Kuromira. We have all of it."
Why won't you just let mə die?
Pleɐse, oh pleasɘ, give me the Łie.