Chapter Eighteen: The Final Battle, Remembering Lord Third
As we continued to move forward, I started to hear the sound of chirping birds. I knew that could only meant one thing; the Chidori. That also meant that Sasuke was close by, fighting off an enemy. And my guess that it had to be Gaara. We all picked up the space and started moving faster through the treetops. As we got closer, we spotted Gaara heading straight for a down Sasuke. But before Gaara could close the gap, Naruto swooped in and kicked him in the face. Naruto landed on a branch while Sakura, Pakkun and I landed next to Sasuke.
"Sasuke." Sakura gasped.
"It's the curse mark. It's already activated and spread across his body, just like before." I thought and soon directed my attention onto Gaara. "Ah!? What… what's happening to Gaara?"
"Careful, pup." Kiyiya told me. "Shukaku has already started to reveal its true form. If we don't stop him now, Shukaku will be fully released."
"Then what should we do?" I asked her. "How can we change him back?"
"You and Naruto have no other choice but to fight him." She answered. "But be warned. Shukaku is fierce and bloodthirsty and will destroy anyone who gets in his way."
"Right." I thought. "Sakura. Stay here with Sasuke. Naruto and I will handle this." I told her.
"Huh? Right." she replied.
"Pakkun. You stay with them too, okay." I told him.
"What… what are you doing here?" Sasuke's strained voice asked. He quickly started screaming in agony as the curse mark continued to attack him.
"Sasuke, just hang on." Sakura told him.
"Kazumi. Just who the hell is that?" Naruto asked.
"Naruto, that's Gaara." I answered.
"What do you want?" Gaara asked in a guttural tone. He soon directed his attention onto Naruto. "So it's you. You're the one I didn't kill that day."
"Guys, get up! We have to get out of…" Naruto yelled.
But as he did, Gaara decided to rush forward. As he closed the gap in between us, Sakura sat there with a frightened look on her face while Sasuke continued to groan in pain. While I stood there beside them, I quickly drew out a kunai.
"Die! Sasuke Uchiha!" Gaara yelled. Before Gaara could get to him, I quickly jumped in front of him and Sakura.
"Wind Style: Wind Dragon Breath!" I yelled.
A gust of wind came forward and struck Gaara, pushing him back again. But that attack only slowed him down. Once he was back on his feet, he came charging once again. I jumped forward, completing a series of hand signs once more.
"Wind Style: Wind Dragon Breath!" I called out again. Another burst of air slammed Gaara back once more. "It's not working." I growled as I landed beside Sasuke. "We need to think of another way of attacking."
"Yeah, but what about Sasuke and Sakura." Naruto pointed out. "Sasuke is nowhere near able to fight this guy again."
"Well, we need to retreat and fast." I told him.
"Guys come on, we have to move!" Naruto cried out but suddenly Gaara dashed pass him at an amazing speed.
"DIE! SASUKE UCHIHA!" Gaara howled.
"Ahhhh!" Sakura yelled as she covered her head with her hands.
"Damn it, Sasuke, Sakura." I thought. I knew that if I moved to dodge, he would get them instead. As I stood protectively before them, I noticed Gaara's eyes shot open as he glared at me for keeping him away from his prey, Sasuke.
"You! Out of my way!" Gaara growled.
Gaara's transformed arm came forward and collided with me. He pushed me back and soon had me pinned against a tree. All the wind got knocked out of me but I remained conscious and started to struggle against his grasp, trying to get free. Naruto was just about to rush forward but I stopped him.
"Don't worry about me! Get Sasuke out of here, right now!" I yelled at him.
"Sakura, what do we do?" Naruto asked the pink-haired Kunoichi.
"I, I don't know Naruto." She mumbled.
Normal Point of View:
"Well? Aren't you going to make a run for it?" Gaara questioned Naruto. "Why stay? What are these three to you?" he asked as he referred to Sasuke, Sakura and Kazumi. Naruto just remained silent as he looked at him. "Well?" he asked, tightening his hold on Kazumi, causing her to scream out in pain.
"You want to know, who they are to me." Naruto repeated the question as he stood up. "They're my FRIENDS! And if you as so much lay another finger on them, then I WILL PULVERIZE YOU!" Naruto shouted as he pointed a finger at Gaara. Gaara just smirked and squeezed harder.
"Ugh, ahh!" Kazumi shouted louder.
"What's the matter? Didn't you say that you were going to pulverize me?" Gaara challenged. "Well? Come on!" Naruto's eyebrows knitted together as he balled his hand in fists.
"You're on!" Naruto growled as he lunged forward. However, Gaara went on the defensive and stuck Naruto, knocking him back. Naruto landed right next to Sasuke and Sakura, but he quickly returned back to his feet.
"Want to know why you won't win?" Gaara growled. "It's because you fight for the sake of others! Forget about your so called friends and fight for yourself!"
"You're, you're insane." Naruto growled. "Forget my friends?! That's something I will never do!"
"If you let trivial things such as friendship and loyalty clouds your focus, then there is no doubt that you will die!" Gaara yelled.
Gaara groaned in pain as he continued to hold his head. As he did so, he continued to keep his sights on Naruto. "What's the matter? Why don't you attack?" Gaara asked. "Don't you care about what happens to your precious friend?" to make his point clear, Gaara continued to crush Kazumi to the point where she lost consciousness.
"No, Kazumi!" Naruto yelled. "You let her go right now!"
"Heh, come make me!" Gaara taunted.
The battle between Naruto and Gaara got so heated that Naruto had to use his Summoning Jutsu to summon Chief Toad, known as Gamabunta. With his help, the two fought the nearly complete Shukaku. But as they fought, Naruto found that it was hard for Chief Toad to get a hold of the beast, so he used the Transformation Jutsu to transform themselves into the Nine-Tailed Fox. Shukaku soon used a sleeping spell to make himself stronger.
"You've got to dispel that sleep technique! Punch him or knock him out!" Gamabunta told Naruto.
"Right!" replied Naruto. With that, Naruto jumped onto the One-Tailed Demon and tried to punch a sleeping Gaara. But before he could, the sand blocked him. But Naruto has finally managed to punch Gaara, thus awaking a sleeping Gaara. Gaara used the sand and started to wrap Naruto. In order to keep himself from being swallowed, he summoned the Nine-Tails' chakra and lunge forward. The sand stopped Naruto and held his fist, so Naruto used another method. He held his head back and clipped Naruto with a powerful head-butt. After that attack, the sand that formed Shukaku slowly crumbles and before long disappears.
After a long hard fought battle, both Naruto and Gaara laid on the forest floor. Both were wounded and exhausted. Also the sand that held Kazumi finally crumbled away and released her. Sasuke quickly caught her and laid her down beside Sakura and Pakkun.
"I'll leave her with you." Sasuke told them.
"Wait, what do we…?" Sakura started but Sasuke was already gone. Sasuke moved forward and found Naruto and Gaara, both still on the forest floor.
"Hey, Naruto. The sand that held Kazumi crumbled away." He told him. "She's going to be fine. I left her with Sakura and Pakkun."
"That's a relief." Naruto mumbled.
As the two looked at Gaara, Temari and Kankuro appeared. They were ready to fight, in order to protect Gaara, but Gaara stopped them. Listening to Gaara, they both helped Gaara up and quickly left the two Leaf Ninja, making their way out of the forest.
A few days later, Naruto sat on his bed, thinking about what has happened over the past few days. The most shocking thing was that the Third Hokage was dead. He was killed during the invasion while he was fighting Orochimaru.
He sighed to himself as he looked at the picture of Team 7: He stood on the far right with his arms crossed as he glared at Sasuke. Sasuke was standing on the far left, looking like he usually did. Kazumi stood next to Naruto as she had her elbow on Sakura's left shoulder, as she had a plain look on her face, well in her eyes. Sakura was next to Sasuke, looking like a squealing fan-girl. And Kakashi stood behind the group with one hand on Naruto's head and the other on Sasuke's, ruffling both boys' hair as he had his usual eye-smile on.
Naruto just sighed to himself once more before getting off his bed to finish getting dressed. He was wearing all black, shirt, pants, shoes, everything. Everyone was to wear black at the ceremony, so they could all pay their respects to the late Hokage.
Sakura left her house as she was dressed in a black dress. She looked up towards the sky to see black storm clouds gathering. As Sakura continued to look up, she was finally brought out of her trance by a familiar voice.
"Sakura." That said girl looked back to see Kazumi.
"Kazumi." Sakura greeted.
Just like Sakura, Kazumi was also wearing a black dress. Sakura just nodded as the two began to move forward. It was dead silent as the two walked together. Before long, Naruto joined them. Soon after, the trio heard footsteps. They looked back to see Sasuke. Sasuke walked pass them without speaking a word. The three exchanged looks before running forward to catch up with their teammate.
At the ceremony, all the Shinobi of the Hidden Leaf were clad in black and were standing before the Third Hokage's memorial. As they did, rain slowly began to fall.
"It's raining." Kurenai stated quietly.
"Even the heavens weep." Asuma replied as he stood beside her.
"We are gathered here to remember and honor not only the Third Hokage, but also everyone who sacrificed their lives in this battle so that our village would survive." The two elders spoke.
"Why did it happen? Why did someone so good have to die?" Naruto thought to himself as the Shinobi each placed a white rose on the memorial. He glanced to his right and saw Konohamaru crying. Iruka placed a hand on the distraught boy's shoulder and soon crouched down to allow him to cry on his shoulder.
"Iruka Sensei…." Naruto started, causing Iruka to look up at him. "Why do they do it? Why do people risk their lives for other people?"
"Well…when someone passes away, it's the end, his past…future….all the dream he once had….they disappear along with him. This is true….even if he dies honorably in battle…..as son many have….as Hayate did." Iruka explained. "All the ties that bind him to the living are severed….all but one, the most important of all, people, parents, sibling, friends, lovers, the people are important to him. and these people, the ones left behind….are joined together in a great circle….by the memories of him…a circle of friendship, trust and sacrifice that grows larger and stronger as time passes. It's hard to explain it. We remain in the circle together….we have no choice….it's important to us."
"Hm, so we do it because we have to." Naruto concluded. "I get it…sort of." He said as he looked back at the memorial stone. "Still, I'm sad he's gone."
"Think how sad it would be if he died for nothing." Kakashi said from behind. "But he left us something priceless. Don't worry, you'll understand one day."
"Hey, give me some credit. That much I get." Naruto said as he smiled.
"The rain, it stopped." observed Sakura, making Sasuke look up as well. The two watched as the clouds cleared to allow the sun to shine through.
"Thank you for everything, Lord Hokage." Kazumi thought as she smiled.
"Bye Iruka Sensei! See ya later!" Naruto said as he waved before turning to run towards his awaiting teammates.
"Do you see it, Lord Hokage? The will of fire is stronger than ever. The sparks you left behind have kindled the flame among the young leaves of the next generation. A mighty flame Lord Hokage, it will burn brightly, and it will shine its light on our village and keep it safe and warm for many years to come. And someday, from the new flame….will come a new Hokage…." Iruka thought to himself.
As time passes, the moment of peace that the Hidden Leaf Village felt would soon come to an end. Unknown to the ninja and civilians of the Hidden Leaf, two figures, who were wearing straw hats and black cloaks with red clouds, were glancing down from the large walls that sound the village.
"Well, it survived….. but barely….. The damage is extensive." The male, with the sword on his back, stated.
"Not too long ago, it was at the height of its glory….look at it now." The other stated.
"Hmph, you sound almost sad. Don't tell me you still have feelings for your old home." The first one scoffed at his partner.
"No. None." That said person slowly lifted his head up to reveal none other than the Sharingan.