Looking Glass House
Hey everyone! LOOK! Not even two weeks! Amazing, right?
Thanks everyone for all your continuous and fantastic support; so many amazing people always drop by to review... I hope I inspire you as much as you inspire me! And for all my dw frandss: don't worry about me or the hilarious shit show that's been going on.. skyles and I are good friends and she was just expressing her opinion - definitely didn't intentionally mean to call me or synch out. Also for the record, totally agree with every point she made too. Ahaha.. so stop with the hate asks? On that subject though, canon divergence is definitely coming up for this fic... although now I'm not too certain just how much I want.
He here was, so close he could reach out and touch Sasuke, and yet between them was a thick, besotted veil, and Naruto didn't know when it had fluttered between them.
But he felt he couldn't cross the distance anymore.
I just feel I've let you go
(a few days prior)
The sight of his team at the gates was infinitely more relieving than it had any right to be. Perhaps it was the familiarity of the their stances—Yugao a long, graceful curve against the side of the wall, Koga with all his weight divested on one foot, Towa gazing up at the sky, bored as hell, and Yamato the sole presence that looked anything like professional—that put Naruto at ease. Either way, he sped up as he saw them lounging by the entrance.
Each of them straightened as the party arriving approached, the two Chuunin on guard duty even bowing lowly. It took Naruto by surprise for a moment, until Tsunade breezed past him, irritated.
"Don't even start that shit." She scowled, ignoring them completely as she pushed her way into the city.
Naruto watched her determined gait as she systematically climbed the stairs into Konoha, shaking his head.
"She's not even Hokage yet and she's already bossing everyone around." Naruto noted, somewhat admiringly.
Jiraiya scoffed. "Don't give her any ideas now."
"Well," Came Yamato's wry voice. "Looks like you two succeeded."
Naruto grinned. "Yeah, sort of. We got her back, anyway."
"And in good timing, too." Tenzou nodded. "We have a mission."
Naruto balked. "Wait. What?" His eyes travelled back to Konoha—reparations were well on their way, but that didn't mean the city was anything approaching its former glory. "Shouldn't we help with the rebuilding?"
Tenzou shook his head. "We have to keep up appearances to the other hidden villages; if they suspect we're in need of recuperation it will only draw more attention towards us."
"It's good money, too." Yugao added. "And god knows the city needs more of that right now."
"Also," Towa whispered conspiratorially, "Yamato-taichou just wants to leave so everyone will stop harassing him to rebuild their houses."
Yeah, Naruto snorted. He could imagine that the Captain's Mokuton jutsu would be in high demand right now.
"At any rate," Yugao tapped him lightly on the head. "It'll be good to have you back—and you've made it just in time to come with us. Suit up, huh? We're meant to leave in a half hour."
"B—But…" Naruto floundered. He had wanted to go and see Sasuke and Kakashi. Well, mainly Sasuke—whatever his brother did to him undoubtedly wasn't good.
Yugao read his confusion accurately, gaze softening. "He's fine." She said by way of explanation. "And recovering in the hospital—but it took a couple days for Kakashi to wake up, I suspect Sasuke will take even longer."
Naruto swallowed. "…So he's okay?"
She nodded. "He will be." And then, gently, "This isn't going to take long—it's a fairly routine assassination. We should be back long before he wakes up."
Naruto wondered when words like "assassination" and, "routine" started finding themselves together in the same sentence; and perhaps even more alarming—when they had stopped sounding so unnatural. Heturned to Jiraiya, but the old man only shrugged.
"Well," He began, slowly. "Let me get my stuff then."
The routine mission was made even easier by the recent assimilation between Naruto and Kyuubi. Seeing the demon fight through his body had given him a whole new level of appreciation for just how much Kyuubi really knew about chakra. He had, at this point, attempted to explain it multiple times; but hadn't really gotten far in actually getting Naruto to digest the information. The blonde had a hunch that he'd never truly understand it—not in any legitimate manner. Not in any way Kyuubi did. He didn't take this to heart, though; one of them had centuries of experience, and it wasn't him.
But there was a startlingly clear jump in his abilities from before. Everything from his footwork to his swordplay had grown tenfold.
It didn't take long until Naruto felled most of the enemy-nin, feeling alarmingly indifferent as he stood among their remains. He wondered if he was just getting used to the job, or if he was really starting to lose touch with his previous reality. The Naruto of four months ago would have outrageously protested such waste of human life—the Naruto of today had the largest hand in making it happen.
This thought was accompanied by nothing but a vague sense of disbelief, before Naruto shook his head.
"Hey, Yamato-taichou." Naruto began, moving towards his captain. There was something that had been eating away in the back of his head since he'd first left with Jiraiya; something he'd been wondering on. If there was anyone who knew the answer—and would actually give him a straight answer—it'd be Yamato.
"Hmm?" Yamato answered, distractedly, squatting to overturn one of the limp bodies. He dug around in the man's pockets, attention diverted.
"What can you tell me about Uchiha Itachi?"
The captain stilled, withdrawing his hand and turning to give Naruto his full attention. "…And why do you ask?"
"I just—I just want to know." He replied, somewhat unsteady, hoping Tenzou either didn't notice the tremor in his voice, or left it alone.
But that was incredibly foolish of him: this was Captain Yamato, after all, and if anything could possibly escape his notice, Naruto didn't know what it was. "No one asks without a reason." He noted, dry.
Ah. Caught. Naruto scratched the back of his head. "Okay yeah, fair point." He conceded. "But, I mean, I was just thinking… about that one time…"
"That one time when he murdered his whole family?" Yamato finished with a snort.
Naruto smiled, sheepish. "Uh, yeah. That time. It's just; he was really smart, right? Like a genius? Rose through the ranks at a young age, joined ANBU at a young age…"
"That doesn't sound familiar?" Yamato noted, sardonic, pointing to he blonde.
"Well, yeah," Naruto agreed. He could see the similarities very clearly on his own—and could really do without everyone he met making a comment on it. "I guess that's kind of my point. Everyone thought he was amazing, but he really wasn't that amazing. Hell, I heard Kakashi was a Jounin when he was like, seven."
"That's an exaggeration." Yamato interrupted, mildly, but ultimately did not refute the claim.
Naruto continued over him. "So, how could it have been possible for one boy—who, at the time, was practically my age—to completely annihilate a whole clan of professional ninja?"
"I think you may be underestimating him a bit." The Captain warned.
Naruto watched him with luminous eyes, searching. "…You really believe he killed them all without any help?"
Yamato turned his head sharply in the direction of their team. Not too far away, Towa and Koga were chortling over an Icha Icha they had found in one of the dead nin's pockets; some ways behind them, Yugao was diligently combing through the rest of the dead.
"No." He answered, at great length, sounding almost resigned. "No, I don't."
"Kura—Kyuubi mentioned something." Naruto began slowly. "About the massacre. And how he doubted that it could have been pulled off by one person alone… he said that he thought someone else was involved."
"Your fox is well informed." Snorted Yamato derisively.
Naruto shifted his weight, unsure of how to respond to that.
The Captain gave another sweep of the perimeter, before leaning in close. "This isn't something people know about, Naruto." There was something disquietingly intense about his tone; as if he was imploring Naruto to understand something... something hidden in the spaces between his words. "And for the record, I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with you… But undoubtedly there was someone who stood to gain much from the end of that clan."
"He's not speaking of Madara." Kyuubi mused, darkly.
"So there were more people involved than just him?" Naruto thought, somewhat disturbed. "Just how far does this plot go?"
"I think I may have some idea."
"I'll caution you to let some sleeping dogs lie, Naruto. Not all stones should be overturned—at least, not now. I wouldn't want you making any dangerous enemies so soon." He leaned back, reverting back into something pleasant. "Now, I think it's about time I whip those two back into something approaching professional," He nodded his head towards Towa and Koga, who were loudly guffawing at the book. "If you'll excuse me."
Naruto blinked rapidly at his exit, still trying to make sense of anything—anything at all.
He didn't know what he had thought on his first meeting with the infamous Uchiha Itachi, and perhaps that was the most startling part of it. There had been nothing… obtrusive about the event at all. Nothing grand, nothing of great prominence—not at all what he'd have expected in meeting a mass murderer. Then again, who was he to judge the psychology of a mass murderer? Perhaps they all secretly joined knitting circles; he'd never know. And then, he snorted.
Well, they certainly all joined something.
And that something was called Akatsuki.
Naruto shook his head, turning over Yamato's ominous warning in his head. It seemed the death of the Uchiha clan was infinitely more convoluted than a psychotic clan member offing them all.
"He's right to caution you." The demon noted. "As I have said before, and will now remind you again; perhaps you aren't ready to know."
"And when will I be?" Naruto retorted. "If there's something I can do—anything to help Sasuke, I want to—
"I implore you, for once in your short existence, to have a little foresight. Your Captain, gullible fool that he is, undoubtedly only wants the best for you. He has… grown quite fond of you, as of late. Trust in his judgment; for he would not intentionally lead you astray. If he believes you aren't ready—then, I would think you not ready."
Naruto harrumphed. Regardless, he still felt the instinctual urge to dive into this; a restlessness crawling up into his bones. He knew Kurama was right; hell, he knew they were all right. ANBU he may be, but there were many adversaries infinitely stronger than him at this point. It'd be incredibly dumb of him to charge headfirst into them—though that was exactly what he wanted to do. Hell, four months ago that's exactly what he would have done. Naruto wasn't sure when he had started using the person he was four months ago as a moral barometer but it made for a radical difference. It was also somewhat humbling. He didn't know what he would do without them. What he'd be doing.
He could acknowledge that both Yamato and Kurama were right—he could also acknowledge that the two of them were perhaps some of the most powerful, and rational people he knew.
"Fine." Naruto agreed, reluctantly. "But don't expect me to wait for too long."
They returned just past dusk; the world was besieged by darkness, nothing but a gossamer trail of stars above to light the way, the street lamps so far in the distance that they lit up as distant, glittering light against Yugao's cheeks. They looked like fireworks scattered around her eyes. She had her head turned over her shoulder, and it was then that Naruto realized she was speaking to him.
"I asked you if you were going to the hospital." She repeated, and a small smile lifted her face. Small, and bereft of any admissible expression. But the expression he did see was one he could remember often on himself: a certain sadness. He remembered the boy in the frame of her pictures with a startling clarity—remembered his end, just as clear.
"Yeah, I was about to head over." Naruto nodded. "Why? Should I not?"
She jerked her head to the Hokage tower; from here nothing but an indeterminable pattern of lights in the distance. "We're giving the Hokage the mission briefing. Do you want to join?"
Should he join? He'd never done so before, always assuming it wasn't his place to do so. He doubted Kyuubi ever deigned them with his presence.
She read the hesitation right off his face. "You're allowed to go." She reached over, and before he could stop her, messed with his hair. "You're a part of this team."
That warmed him, somehow, even with the bitter cold wrapped in the cloying darkness around them.
They were not the only ANBU team debriefing the Hokage in the darker hours of the night.
A team he didn't recognize had just finished their update as Yugao and Naruto entered the office. Naruto wasn't all that surprised to find Jiraiya lounging halfway out the window, a very recognizable orange book in hand, pipe in the other. He gave him a slight nod as he entered, but otherwise diverted his attention to the Hokage.
Tsunade didn't look as strange in that chair as Naruto had expected her to be. Perhaps that was because she was already scowling down at the ANBU in front of her, hat lopsided and temper rising.
"So he's transferred?"
"We believe so." An ANBU with a rabbit mask replied. "We found the carcass along the border—it… appears to be uninhabited for some time."
Tsunade narrowed his eyes, before turning to Jiraiya. "Do you think this will deter his interest in the Uchiha?"
"Doubtful." Jiraya snorted. "But, he may be less inclined to move so quickly now. Intel suggests that he'll have to wait another three years before shedding this costume and setting up house in the Uchiha."
Tsunade sneered. Well, he could have been more tactful about it, but the fact remained that inevitably it was Sasuke that Orochimaru wanted for his next body. Naruto growled. The Sannin would be losing himself both eyes this time if he even dared to try.
"Well at any rate, we should thank Naruto for this." Jiraiya nudged his head in Naruto's direction. "Orochimaru had to take a body after the number he did on him."
"Oh?" Yamato turned around. "Is that right?"
Jiraiya chuckled. "Well, you can thank Sarutobi for the arms—but the eye and the tongue were all Naruto."
Naruto rubbed the back of his head. He didn't know how he felt, being praised for effectively maiming someone.
It did, however, appear to earn him marginal respect from every ANBU in the room.
Tsunade sighed, waving a hand. "Thanks for the update guys; you're free to go. Enjoy the rest of your night."
"Thank you, Tsunade-sama." Said the man with the rabbit mask, whom Naruto assumed was the captain, before they all disappeared in an enormous cloud of smoke. Naruto could sympathize with the guy though; it was a Saturday night effectively ruined—or at least, he could sympathize after hearing Towa and Koga bemoan about that for most of the afternoon.
"Don't call me that yet!" Tsunade howled, but they had already disappeared. She harrumphed. "Hell, I haven't even taken an oath yet."
"It's only a matter of time." Jiraiya noted with mirth.
Tsunade narrowed her eyes, but otherwise gave no response. She instead beckoned Yamato forward.
"The targets were assassinated cleanly." He reported, completely monotonous. "There appeared to be no evidence of affiliations with Kumo or Iwa."
Yamato shook his head. "Nothing."
Tsunade hummed appreciatively, before sighing. "Alright. Thank you for the update, Yamato-taichou."
"Of course." The man gave a small nod, the bottom of his feet already beginning to smoke as he did so. In a moment, he and all the rest of Naruto's team had disappeared. Naruto pouted. He'd have to get on that. It was really unbecoming to be the only ninja in the room actually using the door.
He moved instead for the exit, stopped preemptively by Jiraiya's voice.
"Hold up kid."
He paused, turning back around.
"I have a proposition for you."
Like that wasn't totally alarming.
"Like what?" Naruto replied, apprehensively, eying the man. Having travelled with him for the past week or two, he'd since learned to be wary of any kind of proposition Jiraiya made.
"How do you feel about some more training?"
Naruto blinked, debating this with great deliberation. On the one hand, he was sure there was something that the man could teach him. On the other, there was probably a lot more he could learn from somewhere else. That being said, it would be rather unproductive not to at least soak up all the information the man had to give—and if he was offering it up like that, how could he refuse?
But then his eyes narrowed.
"What's the catch?"
Tsunade chuckled under her breath. "Perceptive kid."
Jiraiya grinned. "Two year training trip, with me. Around the world."
"Pass." Naruto deadpanned, moving again for the door.
Jiraiya sat upright, looking somewhat offended. "What? You're saying no? To a chance to see the world and learn amazing things your friends could only dream of knowing?"
Somehow he doubted that there was anything like that which Jiraiya could teach him. Not only that—but two years? That proposition was effectively shot down in flames. He refused to abandon not only his team—both his ANBU team and team seven—but his village for such an enormous stretch of time. He could feel Kyuubi's ready agreement with this. Well, not the whole abandoning the village and his friends part, but the vehement opposing of traveling with Jiraiya; in that, they were in staunch agreement.
"I'm sure there's still amazing things to learn here." Naruto pointed out, acerbically. "And not only that; I'm not leaving my team, my village, and my friends for so long a period of time."
"Naruto," Jiraiya began seriously, "There are people after you and it would be in your best interest—
"To leave my village full of trained shinobi?" Naruto rolled his eyes. "Akatsuki may have made it in once, but who's to say they wouldn't find me even easier outside these walls? There's no point in taking that chance."
Jiraiya turned to Tsunade for support, but the blonde Hokage shrugged. "Who am I to tell him what to do?"
"You're the Hokage," Jiraiya pointed out flatly, "You can always tell him what to do."
"I'm not Hokage yet." Tsunade refuted, equally as flat. "And at any rate, it's a personal decision. If Naruto doesn't want to leave… I won't force him to. Not when he has a point."
Naruto appraised the blonde Senju admirably. Maybe she'd make an even better Hokage than he'd thought.
"If that's all," The blonde began, coolly, "I'd like to visit my team at some point before sunrise."
"Yes, that's all." Tsunade replied, for the both of them. Jiraiya opened his mouth in protest, but quelled in the face of Tsunade's quiet wrath. "Thank you for your time."
Naruto nodded in response, dragging his mask over his face and exiting as quietly as he came.
"You were really opposed to that training." He began without preamble. "Any reason for that?"
"I'm not fond of that old man." Kyuubi sneered. "And there is more than enough reason to stay."
This raised Naruto's brows, the blonde making a thoughtful noise as he exited the tower, leaping up into the night. "You have ulterior motivations." Not a question.
"Don't I always?"
Naruto flew over the rooftops, scowling. "I thought you were going to tell me about those."
"Not when you do not need to know."
Naruto skidded to a halt, the abrupt motion sending a small avalanche of tiles toppling over the side of the roof. He probably looked rather foolish, arguing with the air like this. "I thought we agreed that I do need to know. And, if you haven't forgotten, this is my body. I think it's fairly safe to think I should have a say in what goes on with it."
"I acquiesced that you had a point—I did not agree explicitly."
And, before Naruto could protest, "That being said, if I feel it would be wiser for you to know… then I'll tell you."
Was that supposed to be reassuring? Naruto snorted. Only Kyuubi would find that even slightly reassuring.
He'd been staring at Sasuke for so long that, frankly, it was starting to get a bit creepy.
But he felt restless and on edge, an indeterminable helplessness prowling in his stomach, in his very heart, in the narrow channels of his blood—and he felt that if he took his eye off the boy, even but for a moment, he'd lose sight of him.
Sasuke is right here, he reminded himself, somewhat futilely.
Sasuke was right here. But he could have been an infinite distance away, for how close Naruto felt to him right now.
Sakura must have stopped by. His eyes lingered on the fresh flowers blooming behind Sasuke's head; a petal had drifted past his face, curling behind his ear with a splash of yellow in an otherwise unsubstantial landscape of sterile, white cotton. Tsunade had come by as well, working her medical voodoo before proclaiming that the only thing they could do for the Uchiha was wait. Sleep, rest, and waiting. Nothing else could be done.
He curled into the chair by the window, rested his head on his knees, and fell asleep.
Not long after his breathing evened out did his head rise; a slow, deliberate motion.
The fox stirred, rolling his shoulders and adjusting into the boy's limbs.
He hadn't been lying when he said he would inform Naruto of his actions—when necessary. He had to begrudgingly admit that the boy may have a point; it would be infinitely easier to attain his goals if he wasn't at constant ends with his host. And the boy was deceptively easy with a soft touch, so starved for attention as he was. The irony was not lost upon Kurama.
It would be so easy to hate the Uzumaki, as he had hated all Uzumaki; the incorrigible old bat, and her loud, abrasive clanswoman—and yet, he felt compelled to the blonde. Not in any tangible sense, for the blonde had never done anything noteworthy, not yet at any rate. Much like his mother, Naruto was loud, insufferable, and often vexatious on the best of days. And yet, in brief, quiet moments that Kurama was sure the blonde didn't even know himself, he would catch the boy's profile in soft light, the slight shift of his eyes, the wisp of his dreams between wake and sleep—
"Can I call you Kurama?"
His voice, thick with half-remembered memories, and he wondered at the striking similarities, how familiar all of these movements were to him. And he wondered if perhaps it was simply a trick of light, or there really was something more to the boy. Something that the demon could not see.
He eyed the boy on the bed; pale, with a refined nose and high cheekbones, a subtle chin. If anything, it was this boy who should seem familiar. Kyuubi sneered.
He spared the Uchiha one last glance, before lifting out of the open window and into the moonlight.
Sunlight flittered over his face; a brief, warm hand. His eyes opened slowly to a sea of blankets. He'd fallen asleep in Sasuke's hospital room. The early morning painted the room with romantic affection, the soft diffusion of light dousing the room in an ephemeral warmth. A line of gold ran down the curve of Sasuke's face; the other half was tossed ominously in shadow.
Naruto stirred, rolling his neck with a yawn. His back ached like hell. He probably shouldn't have slept hunched over the bed like that—it'd take ages to crack his back into place.
The blonde moved to stand, yelped, and immediately struggled to grasp artlessly for the object that had fallen out of his lap before it clattered noisily to the ground.
Fortunately he caught it inches before the tile, finally taking the time to look at what it actually was. His mouth dropped open.
There was a sword in his lap.
And not the usual ANBU sword.
Or at least, if it was, he had most definitely stolen it off some high ranking officer. It was… undoubtedly the most beautiful work of metal work he'd ever seen. That being said, Naruto had no appreciation for swords whatsoever, so really that meant very little. But even he, a novice with the blade, could see the sword for the work of art it was. He was almost a little concerned with touching it. Whose was it? And how in the hell did he come to claim its ownership?
The answer was obvious.
He greeted, sarcastically. "Thanks for taking my body while I was sleeping. Did you have fun?"
"I had a productive night, if that's what you mean." Replied the fox, unabashedly unapologetic. Typical.
Naruto sighed. Part of him wanted to flip over Sasuke's bed, kick over the bedside table and light the whole room on fire in frustration. The other decided he simply didn't have the energy for it.
"Care to enlighten me?"
"I took the time to… track down something that once belonged to me."
Naruto blinked. Then looked down at the sword in his hands. Once belonged to him? Then he balked. Just how old was this thing?
"Infinitely older than you." Kurama snorted. "So take great care not to drop it—you already almost managed that once."
"Hey!" Naruto protested, weirdly offended. "I didn't realize it was so valuable. Also, I didn't even realize it was there. Warn a guy, would you? This is exactly what I'm talking about. If you had told me you were going sword hunting, I would have been aware enough not to almost drop it!"
The fox did not deign this with a response, snorting.
Naruto returned his attention to the sword in had, flipping it over in his hands. It was… almost weightless. The handle was made of some material he'd never seen before, glowing opalescent in the morning light. It looked almost… ethereal. Certainly a radical change from the ANBU issue swords he was used to.
"Is there any particular reason why?" There were an infinitely large number of more pressing questions he should ask the fox, and yet, stupidly, this was the one that came out of his mouth. "I mean, why now?"
"That is a very powerful sword." The fox noted.
"Right. I got that."
Kurama sighed. "And you have very powerful enemies, Naruto—are you sensing a theme, here? If you expect to accomplish your goals, however vapid and insignificant they may be; becoming Hokage, protecting your friends, or whatever it is that you place a foolish amount of value in, you can't expect to be able to reach them without power. Even more pressing, you can't expect to overcome those who wish to oppose you from reaching you goals without power."
"You're talking about Akatsuki." Naruto pointed out, grim.
"And by extension, Madara." Kyuubi agreed. "And I don't doubt that there will be more… domestic adversaries in your way."
He wasn't wrong. Although, Naruto still wished that he could be included more in all these sword-stealing, running in the night events. He sighed, shrugging. Well, the fox was old. You couldn't teach an old…fox… new tricks? Or if you could, Naruto couldn't expect it to happen soon.
"That's true." The blonde appraised. "But, I'd say we're not doing too bad of a job. Hell, we did a number on that Snake bastard."
"Don't get too proud of yourself." Kurama warned. "Had the snake made use of both his arms—the fight may not have turned so easily in our favor."
Naruto blinked. "You said it yourself before; he's weak, and a coward."
"Yes." Kyuubi agreed. "He is all of those—his sword, however, is not."
"His sword?" Naruto blinked rapidly, trying to remember anything significant about it. Aside from the fact it was wrapped in a disturbingly long tongue, he couldn't remember much else. "What about it?"
"What about it—" The fox caught himself before he could truly work into anger, sighing. "Kusanagi is one of the most sacred, ancient swords. That you fail to even recognize this speaks to how far the world has descended from its former teachings."
"It's famous, then?"
"Immeasurably powerful as well." Kyuubi added. "Fortunately, it does not appear that the snake is aware of his sword's… infamous history. I however, won't make that same mistake."
Naruto peered down at the sword in his hands. To him… it didn't look all that different than any other sword. Not that Naruto had much appreciation for them; they were things handed out like candy at the ANBU headquarters—they came in many sizes and shapes, and, sort of like ramen, everyone had a favorite. He could feel Kyuubi's outrage in the comparison of swords to ramen.
"So this sword… is famous and immeasurably powerful, too, I take it?"
"Perhaps more so." The fox intoned, darkly.
"What is it?"
"It is called the Ame no Habakiri—though I am sure, as the world has changed, so has its name."
Naruto didn't want to point this out, but he figured if he was thinking it than everyone else was going to as well—"…and what's so special about it? It kind of looks like a normal sword."
The fox took hold of his body with a sudden conclusiveness, the motion so fluent, so effortless, that Naruto couldn't even feel the shift as Kyuubi moved his hands to the sword's hilt, and abruptly unsheathed the metal blade. In Naruto's hands, it hadn't done much of anything. But in Kurama's, from the hilt to the tip the seam between the metal began to glow an unnatural red, and the air around it began to waver, almost imperceptibly, with an ungodly heat.
Naruto watched with disembodied shock as Kyuubi lazily drew the sword to the flowers by Sasuke's bedside. Though the metal did not touch them, each and every flower dissolved in the wrath of an unknown force, eaten away into nothing but ash. The glass lip of the vase melted and bubbled over, warping into something unrecognizable.
Naruto took hold of his body again, jerking the sword away from the bedside table, with a force so violent that he accidentally banged it against his chair, sending the whole thing up in flames.
The blonde squawked, fortunately having the foresight to sheath the blade this time before moving around the room. Kyuubi besieged him once more, using a water jutsu to douse the whole thing.
Naruto caught his breath, watching with abject horror as half of the now soaking chair fell to the ground in ash, the rest of it still smoldering with dark, besotted smoke.
It was then that Sakura took the inopportune moment to open the door.
She took one look at Naruto, and one look at the chair, and then another at Sasuke's bedside table, and then calmly turned back to him.
"Naruto," She began slowly—but Naruto knew that beneath that deceptive calm was boiling rage. "What are you doing?"
"Uh—" Naruto grasped at the air, attempting to come up with something, anything—"Fire Jutsu! Uh, I was trying out this little fire trick, I thought it might cheer Sasuke up, even though he couldn't see it… and it kind of, um, got out of hand?"
It was a testament to his previous stupidity that Sakura took this excuse at face value, shaking her head.
"Don't let the nurses see that." She intoned ominously. "They'll have your head."
"Right." Naruto agreed, nodding rapidly and beginning to shove everything into the trash can. The chair came apart in his hands, and he shoved all of the remains into the bin, along with most of Sasuke's flowers. "Great idea, Sakura. You always have the best ideas."
The kunoichi frowned at him, watching his hasty clean up with a diligent eye.
He chuckled, nervously. "Sorry about that." And as nonchalantly as possible, he tucked the ancient sword into his belt, hoping that, like him, Sakura came to the conclusion that it looked like any other sword—and wasn't like, a flaming sword of hell that could burn through air itself.
She did, so small blessings and all that. "Well, you probably shouldn't try that again." And then, shaking her head. "Honestly—you could have burned Sasuke, too! Like he needs any more injuries!"
He rubbed the back of his head, cowed. "Ah... point taken."
She sighed then, taking a long sweep around the room. Something sorrowful clung to her face, and Naruto didn't like the look of it.
"He hasn't woken up, then."
Naruto turned back to the boy in the bed. "No." He agreed, softly.
"It's been days." She leaned against the doorway. "I know Tsunade-sama said all we could do was wait, but…"
Naruto swallowed. To be honest, he had been thinking along the same lines. It was… unnerving, to see Sasuke so still against the sheets. The Sasuke in his head was always in movement, stewing in a quiet storm of rage. To see him so devoid of any emotion at all was concerning.
"It's Sasuke we're talking about." Naruto reasoned. "He's a bastard, but he wouldn't give in so easily."
Sakura let out a wary breath. "I guess you're right." She agreed, though everything in her face remained skeptical. She looked away, briefly, down the hall. She turned back, biting her lip. "…I was going to visit Lee-san and Shikamaru-san too…"
Naruto smiled, though it clung to his mouth like a false skin. "I'll tell you if he wakes."
She looked infinitely relieved. "Thanks, Naruto." And then, with a brief hesitation, she darted to give him a quick hug, before darting back.
Not too long ago, this would have made him irrationally happy. Now, it only surprised him briefly before he returned to the matter that had been at hand before she had interrupted them.
He drew the sword out of his belt, holding it up into the light. It glittered, almost omnisciently.
He tried to mimic what Kyuubi had done, manipulating his chakra into the metal. It felt different than how he normally channeled chakra. More fluid. When he channeled his chakra into water, walls, or trees, it sort of felt like he was using his chakra to push against them. This felt infinitely stranger—as if he was becoming a part of the energy of the blade.
It worked, the metal heating up in his grasp. Fortunately the sheath still covered it, and half the room didn't burn down in the process.
"Ame no habakiri, huh?" He gave it a few practice swishes, making sure to keep it tightly sealed within the sheath. The last thing he needed was to not only burn down the room, but the hospital as well. "And this was your sword?"
The response gave him pause.
"Wait, but didn't you just say…?"
"It belonged to the most powerful shinobi to walk this earth. Though, considering I may perhaps be the only one to even remember him, I suppose the ownership passes to me." Kyuubi refuted, and then, thoughtfully. "You wield it well."
This, if possible, was even stranger. …Was Kyuubi actually handing him a compliment. "…Thanks?" He replied, wary.
He looked back down.
Most powerful shinobi to walk the earth, huh? He grinned. Sounded good enough to him.
He may have had ulterior motives in retrieving the sword of Hagoromo so soon, but this did not disrepute the fact that he was ultimately doing Naruto a favor as well. The blonde could only benefit from having one of the most powerful weapons to exist—he doubted that many of them had survived the weather of time. But seeing Kusanagi once more had reminded him that the great sword of Susanoo most likely had passed down through the Uchiha line, and it wouldn't be too difficult to discern its location.
As he had suspected, buried beneath the many tossed artifacts under the Uchiha compound was, indeed, the great and feared sword of the storm god; looking for all the world as an ancient heirloom carelessly fallen into disuse, and nothing like the archaic weapon it truly was.
No—its location was not particularly surprising. However, Naruto's affinity for the blade was.
Kyuubi shook his head. Perhaps it wasn't. After all, like opposite sides of a coin, he and Naruto were essentially the same.
The demon unsheathed the blade, swinging it in the air as a lethal arch of glinting light. He held it up to the moon, the sight eliciting great satisfaction. Yes, it would be infinitely beneficial for Naruto—and also infinitely beneficial for him.
The blonde demon shook his head, sheathing the sword once more, and moving to leap soundlessly over the village wall.
The demon moved through the shadows, his path erratic and seemingly purposeless. The darkness clung to the forest as a thick, besotted veil, no light aside from the flickers of moonlight, and the inhuman glow of his Sharingan eyes.
The journey was cut off abruptly as he deftly moved out of the projectile of a kunai, dropping down onto the ground.
A figure emerged from the shadows, nothing but speckles of light against his face and the red glow of his eyes was discernible through the darkness.
Kyuubi smiled; as if tied by an unknown force, he could always tell when one of them were close.
He had not been lying when he had said that all Uchiha belonged to him.
"Naruto-kun." The figure spoke, voice giving away nothing.
Kurama inclined his head. "Uchiha Itachi."
"Perhaps it was unwise to seek me out?" The Uchiha noted, bereft of any legitimate vivacity. "You couldn't have expected a confrontation to result favorably."
"And yet, you're not all that surprised to see me, are you?"
The Uchiha stepped forward, soft panels of moonlight illuminating parts of his face; the slope of his cheek, the smooth plain of his forehead—his red Sharingan eyes, that quickly morphed into a more dangerous evolution.
The reaction was instantaneous; the Sharingan in his own eyes changed as well, spiraling outward into nine-tomoe.
"The Mangekyou." The elder Uchiha intoned, more inflection to his voice than usual. But there was no expression to his face, and no particular change to his speech; the surprise was written entirely in his eyes—and he could not hide it from Kyuubi there.
With these eyes he caught the almost imperceptible movement of the missing-nin's hand, moving slightly into his voluminous sleeve. Kurama smiled. "If you were looking for a fight, I will by no means disappoint you—however, I must confess it hadn't been my intention."
"I cannot think of any other reason for you to seek me out." Itachi returned. "Unless, of course, you really do intend to elicit my help."
"You said previously that you would not help me… I intend to change your mind."
The Uchiha tilted his head, curiously. "And how do you intend to do that?"
But Kurama continued as if he hadn't heard him. "I don't think it will provide to be too difficult; we do have common enemies… common goals, wouldn't you say?"
"I'm afraid I don't follow."
Kyuubi's smile widened. "I think it's fairly safe to say that you and I care for your brother quite deeply… no?"
The Uchiha's eyes narrowed, Mangekyou spinning furiously. "No, fox, I don't think we do."
The smile turned into a vicious grin. "Ever the perceptive one, aren't you?"
But he waved off Itachi's response. "You're right; I have no personal stake in him at all. However, as I have told you before, all Uchiha belong to me, and I do not intend to lose him so easily. In that, I believe, we share similar aims. Already, his future is so uncertain. And you are too far to keep him from drifting astray."
"You gamble much on my affiliations towards my brother."
"Am I wrong to?" The fox returned in repose. "You slaughtered the entirety of your family—save for your younger brother. Surely, you had to fight Madara tooth and nail on that. And why? Why go through the trouble if you truly had held no regard for him at all?"
At the mention of Madara's name, Itachi's eyes widened. Almost involuntarily, his Sharingan flared to life, and the both of them pitched into Tsukiyomi. Itachi looked around; it was not his. The fox looked up, watching a red sky linger above them. His eyes seemed transfixed, almost longingly, at the moon.
"Did I hit a sore spot?" He asked, rhetorically, dragging his gaze down away from the dream-sky. It was clear to see he had; such a violent reaction from the elder Uchiha was rare indeed—his hatred must run deeply for Madara. But who was Kyuubi to judge him for that? After all, so did his.
When he returned his gaze to the Uchiha in front of him, Tsukiyomi crumbled apart around them.
And as the sky fell, he smiled. "How about we make a deal?"
"I don't make deals with demons." Itachi replied, flat.
"Well, you don't have to agree just yet. I admit, I would be skeptical as well."
The ground beneath them split open, and the world righted itself once more, darkness blooming around them in the night, and diamond lancets returning to the sky.
"Tomorrow at sunrise," The fox promised. "There will be no more threats to your brother in Konoha."
And with that, the blonde turned, walking through the shifting panels of light, turning his back so conclusively on Itachi that he was almost taken aback by it. A gamble indeed, the Uchiha decided, as he counted the many opportunities he would now have had to pierce the fox in his heart.
At this point, he did not know who was gambling more.
The next day at sunrise, Danzo Shimura's disfigured body floated down the Nakano river, the entirety of his right arm hacked away. The hunter-nin proclaimed it to be the work of missing Iwagakure-nin, who had much to gain and a personal vendetta against the elder.
Itachi found it ironic, but oddly fitting, watching the mangled corpse drift with the current.
But it did not go unnoticed that both his right eye and the majority of the right side of his body were so heavily destroyed that it had begun to come apart at the seams—and that his entire right limb was so mysteriously missing.
His eyes narrowed, as he fell farther into the darkness, leaving the scene and turning back into the forest.
Yes, the fox had made good word on his deal; but it was clear that he had his own motives.
Did I just kill of Danzo? No. Well I mean, yes I did, but no it wasn't that simple. I'll expand in the next chapter :D As always: review :) I give cookies.