Gilded

Gyūki

Summary: With loving parents and plenty of friends, unease is the last thing that Naruto should be feeling. But it lingers in the back of his mind, clouding his sight with suspicion and paranoia. Why do his dreams feel so real? Why does he remember things that never were?

Gilded

Chapter 8

Gyūki


~o0O0o~


Sakura Haruno had plenty of ideas of what her first date with Naruto would be like. Most of them revolved around the theory that Naruto would be late enough to make Kakashi-sensei proud.

She was admittedly caught off guard when she'd arrived at Ichiraku's just as the sun was beginning to set and the streetlights turned on one by one, only to find her teammate already through his fifth bowl, well into his sixth.

Frowning at the fact that he hadn't had the decency to at least wait for her, but not surprised in the slightest, Sakura sighed and slid into the seat next to his, shooting an inquiring glance at Ayame and Teuchi. They both just shrugged, apparently having no idea on what was wrong, either. But they both took one look at her nicer-than-usual attire, glanced at Naruto, then at each other with identical winces.

What was that about?

Ignoring the looks, Sakura lightly bopped her teammate on the head, careful not to hit too hard, but still harder than could be called playful. "Naruto, guess who? It's the woman who you didn't bother waiting for."

Naruto froze mid-chew and looked up. "Sakura-chan?" he asked, his cheeks stuffed to near-bursting with noodles. With a visible effort, he swallowed and looked back at her, confusion clear in his eyes. "What're you doing here?" he continued. "You never come to Ichiraku's unless it's with the entire team!"

There was a distinct slapping noise as Teuchi and Ayame's palms met their foreheads. Sakura could only stare in disbelief. Of all the things that could go wrong on their first date, she'd never once in a million years imagined this.

"Yo-you forgot?" she whispered, her voice deathly quiet.

Naruto stilled at her tone and peered up at her cautiously. "... Sakura-chan?"

"Oh my god, you actually forgot!" she screamed, mightily resisting the urge to smack his face in. This was so humiliating! This idiot had been asking her out forever, and when she finally agreed to a date he forgot about it?! She'd even gone through the effort of applying makeup and wearing something that wasn't her usual kunoichi outfit!

Naruto's expression looked rather constipated as he tried to understand what his teammate was getting at. "You mean—"

Sakura grabbed her date by the collar of his orange jumpsuit and yanked him closer as she hissed, "Yes, idiot!"

He blinked owlishly at her. "Was there a team meeting I didn't know about?"

Something vaguely resembling hope died inside of Sakura, and she could clearly hear the disappointed groans of their two servers somewhere behind the counter. Deep breaths, Sakura. Deep breaths. "Naruto," she said, her voice impressively calm. "Do you remember what we were talking about yesterday?"

His eyebrows pinched together. "No?" he ventured. He glanced down to where Sakura was still holding onto his shirt with her vice-grip. "Can you let me go now?"

"No. Anyway, are you sure you don't remember anything? Are you really sure?" Sakura honestly didn't know why she was trying anymore. She'd really been looking forward to tonight, too.

"I don't know, Sakura-chan!" Naruto suddenly snapped in an odd display of aggression. As Sakura flinched back in her shock, he muttered, "I've been here all evening trying to forget about my parents doing it with each other!"

Sakura paused, startled into letting go of Naruto's jumpsuit. What the—

"They didn't even wait for me to leave before they started!" Naruto complained to his noodles that he'd curled around his chopsticks. They dripped broth in their sympathy.

Sakura's mind was reeling. Naruto had forgotten about their date because of . . . that? If she was being honest with herself, she really couldn't blame him. If she'd seen her parents like that she'd be trying to purge her mind for days on end.

Momentarily distracted from his meal, Naruto turned to his teammate. "Huh," he said, giving her a quick once-over. "You look even prettier than normal, Sakura-chan. What's the special occasion?"

Sakura stared at him for the longest moment, more than a little tempted to scream and hit him (repeatedly, especially the hitting part), but in the end she decided it wasn't worth it. Besides, Naruto had already been punished enough if he'd really been unlucky enough to catch his parents in the act.

Ah, screw it. Biting her lip to hide her nervousness, she turned towards him and looked him dead in the eyes.

"Naruto, would you like to go on a date with me?"

Naruto tilted his head, not quick processing what he'd just heard. Sakura could almost imagine smoke coming out of his ears as his mind strained to deal with his current situation, and the thought made her laugh a bit and put her mind at ease. "Eh? Sorry, Sakura-chan, but I thought I might have heard you wrong or something." He chuckled sheepishly, as though berating himself. "I thought you were asking me to go on a date with you or something."

"That's exactly what I'm saying," Sakura confirmed, her gaze steady and clear.

Naruto abruptly choked and devolved into a coughing fit, shying away from Sakura's touch as she made to steady him. Off to the side, Ayame nudged her father with her elbow, a knowing grin on her face, and the old man just smiled fondly and went back to chopping up meat and vegetables for their next orders.

"Bu-But," Naruto sputtered, having regained some control over his breathing, "Why would you want to go out on a date with me?"

Sakura rolled her eyes. "Why wouldn't I?" she retorted. Actually, there were a lot of reasons that urged her not to ask Naruto out on a date, but in the grand scheme of things they were nothing more than petty. Except for one. "Besides, you're the one who asked me out yesterday! And you forgot."

Her teammate's mouth formed a perfectly round 'O' before it snapped shut, and his face paled. "Oh shi—"


~o0O0o~

After Sakura had managed to calm down a bit from her rather justified anger, they decided to go for a walk through Konoha proper and enjoy each other's company for the rest of the evening. Around halfway into their walk, a Naruto clone appeared out of nowhere and handed Sakura a large bouquet of roses before giving the original a thumbs up and vanishing in a poof of white smoke.

Sakura looked down at the roses in her hand, then back at her teammate who only offered a sheepish smile. "I felt bad about forgetting, so I made a clone when you weren't looking and had it get these from Ino's parents' shop," Naruto explained, his voice calm but his eyes clearly nervous as to her reaction.

Sakura stared at him for a moment just to make him sweat a little, then giggled and hugged the bouquet to her chest. "I like them, Naruto, I really do. Thanks."

He blinked, clearly having expected her to yell at him all over again for forgetting, then seemed to deflate as he sighed in relief.


~o0O0o~

Towards the end of the night they found a nice, secluded area in one of the training grounds. The air was flesh and clean, and the fireflies had just started to come out. Naruto and Sakura laid back on the soft grass and watched the stars make their way across the sky, side by side.


~o0O0o~

The date ended with teasing and laughter, and as they finally arrived at Sakura's home, a brief peck on Naruto's cheek before she smiled and slipped in through her door.

Naruto stood there for the longest time, still feeling her the softness of her lips on his cheek. He couldn't remember being so happy in his entire life.


~o0O0o~

Little fox, filled with such fire

I can grant thine true desire.


Naruto flinched as the voice echoed in the hallway. It was a woman's voice, mature but not old, and silky smooth. Almost otherworldly. He looked around but couldn't for the life of him figure out where it was coming from. Slightly spooked, he began walking a little faster. He was outright sprinting by the time he got to the door he was looking for, and burst inside the room.

Sakura and Tsunade stared at Naruto.

So did their topless female patient who yelped and immediately covered her chest as best as she could, looking pleadingly towards the two medics.

Naruto worked his jaw for a moment before quietly venturing, "Is this a bad time?"

Sakura was the first to recover. "Out, Naruto!" she commanded, raising her fist in a clear threat.

"But—"

"OOOOUUUUUUUUT!"

And once again, Naruto found himself running away from something he'd have been better off not seeing.

Somewhere in the middle of the Land of Hot Springs, Jiraiya was trying to figure out why he felt so proud all of a sudden.


Come now, sleep in mine cocoon

And I shall grant thine every boon.


The woman's voice was growing loud enough to the point that Naruto couldn't just ignore it. He was starting to panic. What if this was some kind of a genjutsu? That would be bad. He absolutely sucked at anything even remotely genjutsu-related.

Shaking his head, he raced out of the hospital and made a beeline for his house. Mom would know what to do.

Ignoring the startled looks that people sent his way as he raced over the rooftops (the action wasn't particularly unusual, but the speed certainly was), he arrived at his family's apartment and dived in through his room's open window.

"Mom?" he called. "Mom, I need your help!"

"What is it, Naruto?" he heard her answer from downstairs. "I'm in the middle of making dinner! You'll have to come downstairs if you want something!"

Without pause, Naruto yanked the door to his room open and practically jumped down the steps. "Mom!" he called again, skidding to a stop in front of the counter.

Kushina, her hair bundled up in a high ponytail, looked over from the vegetables she'd been sautéing and gave her son a once-over, instantly noting the wide eyes and the ragged breathing. Her gaze sharpened and she tilted her head at him. "What's going on?"

Naruto was about to tell her when the voice boomed in his mind.


Sleep now, child. Sleep long and well.


Naruto sank to his knees, clutching his head, hands fisted over throbbing temples.

"Naruto?!" Kushina cried out, reaching out to steady him.

He flinched at her ice-cold touch, and when he looked up his eyes traced across long, sharpened nails and pale skin to the flowing robes of nobility.

". . . Mom?" he whispered, his voice tiny and frightened.

Slowly, he lifted his gaze.


Sleep as thine world turns to Hell.


Gone was the blood-red hair of the Uzumaki, in its place bone-white strands. Pale skin, paler eyes, and twin horns jutting from her crown. At the center of her forehead, a single, rippled eye stared back at him, wide and unblinking.

"Mom?" Naruto breathed. Is that really you?

Kaguya simply tilted her head. "What's wrong, Naruto?"

Naruto's eyes rolled to the back of his head, and he slumped over in a dead faint.


~o0O0o~

At Konoha's gates, Sasuke stopped and kept his gaze trained forward to where he sensed Naruto, and her. At his silent command, his eyes spun and his power roared to life.

"I've come for you, Kaguya!"

His chakra spiked and ignited, and in the fraction of a second more than half of Konoha was roasting in Amaterasu's ebon flames. Sasuke continued into the village, killing everyone who came at him without hesitation or effort. These people weren't real, this village wasn't real, this entire world wasn't real.

His mission was clear.

He would free Naruto from this false reality and burn the lies away.


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