Naruto's group must now overcome the odds and survive what stands before them; yet there is a good chance that some will not survive this fight. Hinata's convictions drive her on during this time ...
Chapter Five: Down to the Bitter End
It was unreal, like something out of a nightmare. Like something out of a madman's nightmare.
Kill him?! Shit, he's the walking dead already! Shikamaru took an involuntary step back. He had never seen any human being look so.... horrific. He had heard whispers among their former superiors; hints that Naruto had once reached some terrifying state from the Kyubi, but he couldn't imagine it coming close to what lurched slowly out of the brush towards them now.
The raven haired defector seemed to be struggling with his own hands, fingers flying in hand signals, plastered to either side of his body to prevent them from calling forth a justu. "...please..." Shikamaru shivered at their former friend's voice.
She had hoped before all of this that someday, when he had found his peace, he would return and they could finally be together. The memory of his lips against hers had haunted her through the years. And though it had been she who had kissed him, and though it had not stopped him from leaving Konoha, there had been something in those dark eyes looking down upon her that had given her hope. He had not recoiled; not lashed out, not even mocked her. When the kiss had ended of its own accord Sasuke had simply stepped back, touched her cheek tenderly, and then disappeared into the night.
Then, after the attack, she had done a damn good job convincing herself that she hated him now and that he deserved to die for his crimes. But seeing him standing before her now, pale lines of grief tracing down his cheeks, she couldn't hide beneath her lie.
Damn her soul to everlasting hell; but she loved Uchiha Sasuke still.
Sasuke's hands slowly came around in front of him, arms quaking with effort.
"...before I lose control..." Sasuke's true voice was all but gone beneath Orochimaru's, "...before I hurt another... Kami, Naruto.../don't let me kill again!!!/"
Naruto growled viciously, tears welling in his eyes.
"Rasengan!" A ball of swirling energy blasted from the blonde's fingers, yet in a streak of black Sasuke dodged.
"Hyuga!" Naruto's call snapped the group back to reality and Neji, who was now the closest to their quarry, leapt into action. A thunderous clap came from behind and Naruto knew that Lee had just shed his weights. Iruka was alongside the Hyuga, rushing Sasuke and releasing an onslaught of blows. A second later Iruka recoiled.
"What the-" Sasuke's face now peered out at them from beneath the bark of the closest tree, yellow eyes and white teeth glinting maliciously.
"Can't hit him yet," Anko growled knowingly, as Sasuke's face slowly disappeared further into the tree, "he's out!" Yet the space surrounding the tree was suspiciously empty.
"Shikumi no Jutsu." A whisper from behind the group and Jiraiya froze in his tracks; his eyes wide.
"Shit!" Kakashi yanked up his hitai-ate and rushed for the sennin, the sharingan whirling, watching for the ambush he knew awaited. Yet Jiraiya wasn't frozen with fear at the image of his own grizzly end.
He was smiling a cruel, hateful expression.
"I said it once and I'll say it again," he growled, turning slowly, "I'm not afraid of death!" The great man swung a massive leg around, yet his target had been prepared and Jiraiya was launched backward, nearly colliding with Kakashi, who spun elegantly out of the way.
"It's nice to know you'll be so cooperative, then." Sasuke was gone - Orochimaru's voice was all that was left. Jiraiya grunted as he rose.
"I never said I'd go easy." He corrected. Orochimaru tilted a head innocuously.
"Oh, I think you will." He replied. Gai and Lee rushed him.
"LEE!" Gai smashed a shoulder into his pupil throwing Lee out of range and then howled as snakes wrapped around his body, sinking in fangs and tightening their coils.
"No Gai!" Sakura was closest, a kunai spinning up into her fingers and she slashed her way in. One beast raised bloodied fangs, ready to turn on her. A shuriken decapitated it, Tenten's aim impeccable as she raced in, passed Gai and straight for Orochimaru with Ino and Iruka on her heels.
Neji was beside Sakura; strong hands severing reptilian bodies without the need for a blade, and he extracted his former teacher from their grasp. Gai was a mess of blood and venom, his eyes rolling back into his head.
"Sensei!" Neji had not called the man that in years and yet the word poured from his lips as though by reflex. Lee threw himself down beside his mentor.
"Sensei," his voice rose pitifully, "sensei, look at me!" He was vaguely aware of Shikamaru and Naruto leaping over their heads as they attacked, pushing Orochimaru away from the injured man. "Sensei!"
"What..." Gai's body shook violently as the venom took its hold, "...what are you two doing? Go. Go... I'll be... fine." Lee felt Neji's grip on his arm, pulling him up. When Lee turned he saw that it was not only the Byakugan that gave the man a deadly glare.
Neji was ready to kill.
"Come on," he hissed and turned, rushing after Kakashi, who was moving behind Orochimaru to ensure the villain could not escape into another object. Lee stood for a moment, fists balled, teeth barred as he stared down at his teacher.
"Hachimon," Naruto heard the familiar shriek from behind him, "first gate! Kai!" And Lee was there, atop Orochimaru, striking at him at speeds that had the yellow eyes widened with surprise, though the bastard was still smiling.
"Second gate!" Lee pushed onward rapidly. "Kai!" Naruto wondered if Lee intended to open all eight gates this day. He knew that it was probably in the tai jutsu master's power, even if he had never gotten passed the sixth gate before.
"Don't you dare, Lee!" He screamed and summoned a Kage Bunshin no Jutsu, yet it was not there to attack.
"Odama Rasengan!" Naruto's friends ceased their attacks and scattered as the ball of frenzied energy tore a path in the soil. And still Orochimaru smiled. An explosion, a cloud of dust and debris, and when it cleared Sasuke's body was standing a few hundred feet away from the blast zone; untouched.
"Fuck!" Naruto had never seen that attack dodged before. He needed more.
Gotta burn through it all. Burn through mine... Another clone.
"Odama Rasengan!" The dust cleared and he was beside them. Playing with them. Neji moved in.
"Hakke Hyaku Nijuhachi-" Sasuke's arms wrapped around Neji at impossible angles, restricting his arms and covering his mouth before the Hyuga could seal off his enemy's chakra points.
"No, no, no..." Orochimaru chided softly, "that won't do."
"Third gate! Kai!" Lee burst back into view, red faced, fists pummeling, beating the limbs that trapped his friend. Neji rolled free and was on his feet again, lips bloodied from being mashed against his teeth.
"Raikiri!" Kakashi's arm hung awkwardly before him, blue light arcing from his hand.
"If you insist," Orochimaru smiled. "Raikiri!" Sasuke's arm mimicked Kakashi's, the noise intensified around them. Kakashi startled.
"I never taught him that level." He stared and Sasuke's mouth still twisted in a gruesome smile.
"He watched and learned. The sharingan was very useful for that. Though I am sure you already knew that, didn't you, Sharingan Kakashi?" The white-haired shinobi rushed in, his arm raised high intent on bringing the crackling light down upon his protÃ©gÃ©'s body. Sasuke's laden hand rose, meeting Kakashi's and both men where hurtled backwards, deflected. Orochimaru laughed.
"Oh, that was entertaining!"
"Soshoryu!" Tenten's smoke cloud cleared, her dragons circled and the young woman began to hurl projectiles at Orochimaru with a speed and accuracy many jounin could only wish for. Yet Orochimaru was not impressed and his smile turned to a revolted scowl.
"Do not insult me, girl." He hissed and the snakes returned, speeding at her around her attack. The woman checked her aim, taking out one snake, two; she knew there was no hope of killing them all before they struck.
"Tenten!" Neji had not once expressed fear in all of the years his friends had known him, and yet now his voice rose with trepidation.
A roar from behind and the reptiles crashed through the trees beside the girl, scaled bodies tearing apart as Lee ripped them from Orochimaru's control. Tenten tried not to tremble, a glance at Gai's still form reminding her of what almost happened.
"Alright, I believe we'll stop here for the day," Sasuke's mouth effected the strange smile again. "While I've enjoyed the games we've played and Sasuke has undoubtedly enjoyed the show," Orochimaru stepped back from his circle of foes, "I'm afraid I must draw our time together to a close." Jiraiya bristled instinctively.
A deafening roar and the ground trembled beneath Hinata's feet. Her panting stilled, and she stopped in her tracks; listening, waiting.
"What was /that/?" She whispered to herself. Beyond the treetops in the distance a whirling mass of air rose from the forest. That was no act of nature.
It's them! her mind cried out, they're in danger!
Her legs no longer trembled with fatigue, her lungs no longer burned and Hinata now knew without question that she could - and would - fight for her friends' lives.
The Byakugan marred her lovely features and she starred further into the trees. The battle was beyond the range of her kakkei genkai but it was not that far away. She could be there in under a half of an hour if she hurried!
She let the Byakugan fade, rationing her strength for what was to come. Then Hyuga Hinata leapt into the treetops and towards the people she cared for most in the world.
Wait for me, Naruto, she pleaded, please wait for me...
Naruto lifted his head and saw Sakura sprawled upon the ground. She was moving; breathing, but she was also badly injured.
Kakashi was dragging himself to his feet, drawing a thumb down the side of his bloodied face, a scroll in his other hand.
Neji was pulling Tenten into his lap; she was conscious, whispering something that made him squeeze his eyes shut and shake his head.
Shikamaru knelt beside Ino, her mangled hands clutching at his arms as she struggled to remain upright.
The growl started low in his chest and Naruto stood. Kakashi's eyes widened when they fell upon his former pupil.
"Naruto..." he breathed, knowing full well there was no way he could stop what was about to happen, "...no..."
Naruto's growl became a shrieking roar.
Power exploded from his body, red and raw, deep wounds healing and muscles popping and contorting as Naruto bellowed his fury. One, then two and then three transparent tails snapping into existence behind his back, melded with the energy that circled his body; whiskers spreading, adding feral traits to the handsome face. The scream tearing from his throat was joined by a terrifying ethereal rumble.
Jiraiya moaned from his position against a tree and dropped his summoning scroll to his side. There was no time to summon; not anymore. He closed his eyes, waiting for the fourth tail and - quite possibly - their deaths.
No. Yet Naruto refused to give the kyubi his will though the beast promised him vengeance and blood. I kill him, not you! The demon rumbled its protest and Naruto screamed.
"I do it!!" The kyubi consented after a moment, knowing that he need not worry - they would bring death without his control and he would know the sweet warmth of blood-slicked claws and a dead heart in his grip once more.
Naruto's red eyes slid dangerously over his friends, each exhalation a throaty rumble, his clawed fingers and jagged teeth stopping the breath of anyone who caught his gaze.
"Which way?" His voice was no longer his own and Ino raised broken fingers to her mouth, stifling her cry. It was Lee, hovering over the lifeless body of his mentor, who finally pointed.
"He went in that direction," Lee had never sounded so defeated; not even when he had been told he'd never fight again. He held Gai's head on his lap, the man's eyes were open but vacant and lifeless.
The stench of death also rose somewhere over by Iruka, the fox noticed, but Naruto's current condition prevented him from caring. All that mattered was his victim's bloody demise.
"Be careful Naruto." Neji whispered. "Come back to us."
Naruto crashed through the forest, leaving decimated trees, torn earth and the echo of his unearthly howl in his wake.
Shikamaru quivered on his knees. He had thought nothing could frighten him more than Sasuke's face when he had first come out of the trees... but Naruto. His friend's eyes... that chakra... Naruto had just become the harbinger of death! Shikamaru had not had the slightest idea what terror was when he had laid eyes upon Sasuke. He silently thanked Lee for sending Naruto away... for making that terrible presence disappear.
Kakashi remembered himself, rememberd what he had been doing, and his hands trembled when he began to unfurl the scroll that would call upon the ninken.
"He'll kill them, Kakashi," Jiraiya's sad eyes rested on his pupil's pupil. "He'll wipe them out the second they get in his way. I think that right now he could take out Gamabunta if I called for him." Kakashi slipped back to the ground, his head in his hands, his face buried beneath mask and fingers.
"What..." Iruka called from his place beside Anko's unmoving form, her neck bent at an impossible angle, "...what can we do?" His voice rose in worried pitch and Kakashi's body shook, almost as if he were crying. "There has to be some way we can help him!" Iruka became desperate, Kakashi's reaction adding fuel to his panic. "Isn't there something, Jiraiya?"
"Nothing," he whispered. "Not a damn thing."
Chapter 5 complete!
Okay, I admit, I had fun writing this one. I've had fun writing them all, true, but THIS ONE, got my blood pumping. I never knew writing fanfic could be such an adrenaline rush! I should have started doing this a long time ago! I hope you guys got the same feeling reading it that I got writing it.
Comments, suggestions, requests, complaints, praise and reports on the weather at your place are all encouraged. I want feedback. Maybe I can put your suggestions towards my next story! Thanks!