Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ What it Means To Be Shinobi ❯ Chapter Three - The Waiting Game ( Chapter 3 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
WARNINGS: Spoilers for everything before Naruto Episode 135 Chapter 238. Bastardizer of everything after.

AUTHOR NOTES: Someone asked: "You said in the summery that it was narutosakurasasuke, did you mean it was a triangle or all of them together?"

I will be very direct about this. There will be fucking. Everyone will get laid. Together. With Each Other. The End.... well, end of any ambiguity not the story, because there is plot. Oh, yeah, you bet -there's- plot.

So far, fifteen chapters and 88,thousand words worth and that's just past mid-point. So if you're here for smut, there is that. If your here for action/adventure, there's that. Character Development/Resolution, yep! Plot twists; you bet!
An ending;... eventually. ^^;

As usual, there are illustrations for this chapter; (ohshush(DOT)com/fandom/images/superfluous-fluff/2bsch03(DOT)html)

DISCLAIMER: Kishimoto-sensei, Shonen Magazine and all sorts of people at VIZ own Naruto and the premises therein. This is a work of fan-created fiction intended solely for amusement. No infringements intended.


"To know what is right and choose to ignore it is the act of a coward."
- Kakashi - Naruto Chapter 21, Volume 3


"How could I. Ever think. It's funny how.
Everything you swore would never change, is different now.
Like you said. You and me. Make it through.
Didn't quite. Fell apart. Where the fuck were you"
- Nine Inch Nails, Somewhat Damaged


Chapter Three: The Waiting Game

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"We start from the beginning," the Sannin summarized, "not to relearn but to discover the connections you've missed. It isn't about techniques. It's about disclosure." Orochimaru didn't teach so much as he re-taught and at the end of the equation all the conclusions were different.

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Item Number 1: Earthen Vessel, representing mineral soil. Ideally his family's ceramic hand basin. It wasn't sentiment exactly...just significant. It was very old, very precious and powerful used in the right hands.

Not his father's though, or his father's father, or further back. Fact was no one could recall the exact story or use behind it, certainly no one living. That didn't make it any less significant, just a little less convenient.

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And when Konohagakure no Sato hosted an exam its gates were thrown wide-open. Systematically, scattered Shinobi searched out threats in droving crowds. Jovial but aware, they scanned the multitude while their patches of rank warned off any who thought to upset the festivities. The naïve and soft-hearted Leaf Nîns hadn't had enough insight to prevent the Sound invasion three years earlier. They weren't faring any better now.

It seemed without the insignia chiseled into a hitae-ate and an entourage of enemy Nîn they were unaware of the Otogakure neophyte permeating their lines. With his former classmates in the stadium cheering on their comrades, the prodigal Nîn strode undeterred through the fairway. His telltale raven hair and shadowy eyes were kept wrapped securely beneath a colorless cloak. Leaving nothing to chance, any identifiable markings were masked by a low-level illusion technique. He imagined his homecoming would be significant, worthy of either fanfare or warfare. Instead it was lingering in shadows and silently marveling at the immovable landscape altered by the passage of time. Amidst the human traffic moving away from the town center, Sasuke kept his eyes trained on Hokage Mountain observing the artful civility in an exchange of power.

On the Uchiha grounds unlocked doors and dust covered footprints went mostly unnoticed, because it was his to take for granted. While hoards of diplomats hastily wagered on one clan against another, he reread by candlelight ancient text long ago committed to memory. The early evening breeze jostled the frames of open windows and doors to deserted houses. It raised questions in his already troubled mind, but he knew one thing for certain, if discovered by either Sound or Leaf Nîns he would, unfortunately, live to regret it.

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Item Number 2: Salt Water, representing the elemental & mineral. Personalizing, while helpful to the process, was not mandated. Condiments would do just fine.

+

Outside Leaf it was common knowledge that only one member of the Clan survived the Uchiha massacre. It was lesser known [to a handful of ANBU and the now deceased Sandaime] that Sasuke was discovered catatonic among the dead. Under their observation, he remained conscious yet entirely withdrawn for three weeks. Medic-Nîns examining the dead surmised that Sasuke stayed with the corpses of his parents for some thirteen hours. Maybe more. With no Uchiha alive to explain the technique used to collapsed his mind so completely, no cure could be devised. It went unproven but assumed that Sasuke remained conscious throughout the their massacre until his discovery.

When he became aware again he was lethargic but responsive, still withdrawn. When he slept unaided by drugs it was fitful. (Hardly a notable improvement considering no one knew what pharmaceuticals could have done in such a delicate mental state.) The handful of ANBU rotating as guards used their unique talents to observe, mend and question him. Separately, each member admitted to the Hokage it felt less like nursing him to health and more like interrogation.

So, Sarutobi, as within his right as the Third Fire Lord, considered teaching the child a secret technique both worthwhile and very old. And since Sasuke wasn't one to ask why, he learned because it was a rare technique. What he didn't tell the Hokage was that he had seen his brother perform it, all of once, and it wasn't something you talked about. It had been labeled 'The Call' the Sandaime explained to the mute boy. An unremarkable title, yet one that carried a sort of weight. It had one objective: to summon pieces to a whole. The body, mind and soul.

The power of it played into science, schooling the billions of nerve endings within the brain. Each nerve cell had branches that transmit and receive messages from other nerve cells. The branches released chemicals, neurotransmitters, which carried the messages from the end of one nerve branch to the cell body of another. In a brain afflicted, something went wrong in this delicate communications system. There was no cure, but there existed a sort of rehabilitation. The conscious mind could not manipulate the physical one, but the spiritual mind wasn't held by the same restrictions.

When done in earnest this technique supplied insight, seemingly otherworldly but in actuality more real than the physical world could provide scope for.

Or maybe, Sasuke reflected silently, it was bunk; after all Itachi used it and soon after slew Shisui, his cousin and best-friend...

Or maybe it failed then too, because in Sasuke's personal experience he had never known the technique to work.

The ingredients were commonplace and easy enough to find. The process relied only on focus. And because there wasn't any feasible reason why he should be unsuccessful at it, he told the Hokage it had worked. But the old man knew better and just gave him candy for his effort. Goddamn candy. On the plus side, even a failed attempt left him feeling better than he had in weeks. It revitalized him, and the candy, thankfully, was sour.

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Item Number 3: A flawless mirror, representing the world unseen.

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"Why Konoha? Why now?" Kabuto asked when he finally caught up with Sasuke.

Not knowing how to explain, he hadn't bothered. It wasn't in Kabuto's favor that Sasuke didn't trust or particularly like him. Time and close proximity forged a mutual animosity, but there were particular times when their strained interpretation of a partnership approached hate. And hate was a feeling Uchiha Sauske reserved for very few.

"You couldn't have picked a more inconvenient place to disappear to, 'Vessel'?" Kabuto pried, testily. Sasuke especially hated the meek way Kabuto pushed his glasses along the bridge of his nose in an attempt to hide the menace in his glare. He'd underestimated Kabuto once before in the 'Forest of Death' during the Chuunin exams years ago.

"You couldn't have been easier to lose, 'Care-Taker'?" Sasuke chastised coolly, not missing a beat. Since then, the expert Medic-Nîn made quite the asset of himself, on Orochimaru's behalf of course, but in Sasuke's personal experienced he believed the touch of someone that two-faced could only ever be toxic.

Another in a long list of things Sasuke just couldn't stand about him was the possessive way Kabuto's fingers latched onto his wrist, monitoring his pulse, while he steered them toward a nearby town for reserves.

Inside the establishment nearest, a bar of some sort, Kabuto-san blathered knowledgeably about essentials "--ordering something with weighty proteins, vegetables and anything really hydrating. I'll manage to scare up some supplementals, medicinals, stimulants, maybe find a handful of soldier pills or--" and Sasuke, accustomed to Kabuto's sort of 'grooming' care, ignored him. It wasn't concern so much as reiterating the best preventatives. He was Sound Village's important 'vessel' after all.

Sasuke didn't believe in God or Buddha but he respected that there was a greater design. So when the first worthwhile teaching he'd received from Orochimaru's and the last words of significance the Sarutobi had spoken with him coincided so perfectly, he couldn't ignore it as a sign. He could have covered his tracks better, could have chosen a hidden path but it was unlikely anyone could stop him now. Not the border guards or the hired thugs whose corpses littered the highway. (Especially not the nuisance physician with the chip in his shoulder.) But then there was the guy at the bar... slight build, not due to a lack of training or the minimum requirement of invested skill, but because he was small of frame. Not short or stocky exactly, and not weak. Certainly not that. Honed. Skin like a strip of linen stretched taunt over marble. And he moved like a fighter, and like a boy, like the wind, sort of, if the wind had an ego. And the room changed just because he was in it, like the sound was drained out of the air. And his hands, his hands were grubby and fingers sort of curled and rounded, making every gesture look childish and playful, but his palms were calloused and scarred. Pieces of netting covering his wrists, barely obscuring the marks of recent violence. He was rubbing his neck in a way that alluded to an ache but it was a trick to make the regulars think he was somehow insecure, maybe lost, probably kind and not at all a lethal weapon like his hitai-ate implied. Uzumaki Naruto.

Sasuke thought that when they met again they would see somewhere nearer to eye-to-eye. It was a lie but a valued one. It was likely he could have been more wrong, but the depth of hurt and anger in those big eyes over the distance brought him to a halt. Temporarily. To think he cared so much, even after all this time. The words he mentally practiced for just such an occasion became locked away the moment Naruto started to move near, fists clenched, aura all but blinding and pulsing with intent to burn down the world just to get what he wanted. Power that potent intrigued him, piqued his envy, and darker things too.

It would have been too easy to get caught up in it. Strength, Power, Naruto and all that. That guy, that idiot guy could rattle his cage like no one else and it made him wonder, -competitively, childishly, stupidly- which was strongest now.

When the medic whispered in his ear, "Sasuke-sama," he could have breathed smoke.

"Naruto-kun isn't traveling alone. If you battle it out now Jiraiya-sama will intercede... and as it is, you're still on the mend."

A moment of equal parts clarity and warning. The thought of running hadn't occurred to him until the terminally loyal Kabuto-san spoke. As much as it bothered him to do so, he ran. Just another in a long line of reasons to hate the man.

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Item Number 4: A lit candle, representing passion and power, fire.

+

--now--

Surely, there was a first time he had committed to performing this process. -Search the path, find the guide-. It was lost in a thousand colliding memories. Only it was both sour and inviting.

--It has to work this time-

Even Orochimaru seemed certain of his success. And the master didn't think well of many, Kabuto-san was keen to remind. Sasuke was accustomed to the affect he had on people, evident in the lingering leers on the Sannin's serpentine features. His impudence was an additive toward his charms. He long ago lost count of the number of Nîns who fell, willingly, under his blade, bowing obediently to his demands at the cost of their lives. Kabuto-san now included.

--because everything-

Being born of a prominent and massacred family labeled him a survivor and not a lucky one. Carrying a name that would ceaselessly lead him back to a destined path. He didn't much believe in chance either, so he knew it would be a mistake to spurn the generous, albeit self-serving teachings of Orochimaru, the fiercest of the legendary Sannins.

--is part of the greater design-

The abandoned shrine he discovered in the wood, wasn't luck, it was part of the design. He felt that. Since childhood, he found 'shrines' & 'temples' to be synonymous with 'destruction'. He had waited long enough. The ceremony would start here.

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Item Number 5: Incense, representing the insubstantial air and the intangible sense smell; a cord connecting the realms of self.

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For the split-second when the stick of incense caught fire he could recall fables from infancy; the fire bird Ho-Oh, born of flames, devoured by flames. The flicker of memory wasn't congruent enough to form structure but enough to conjure the image of 'endurance'. And then come reminders of his birth-place, his people's remains and he asked himself why he never torched the compound to the ground. He had every right but had never received a sign.

The tendril of smoke lifting off the nub was bright in contrast to the shadow in the room. Unexpected but still inviting.

The ornament caught the light in a way that made the reflected world skew and melt, which made focus easier. The mirror center of the hanging charm was around three inches in diameter. The cord that held it in place was strong despite its age, so the charm didn't move very much, and the reflection was deformed but centered. Focused.

The salt, which was intended to be a curative for aching limbs and pulled muscles, was instead rubbed into an intricately scripted circle, formed under the mirrored charm, around the smoldering nub of incense, and along the lip of the an earthen-wear Saké cup, still moist from use. Technique and customs. If there was ever a distinction, the life of a Shinobi smeared through it with sweat and a bit of blood.

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There is a sort of warmth that comes first, intimate and meaningful.

...Like the feeling of Itachi carrying him against his back so his injured foot wouldn't be upset. And the press of each bone in his spinal cord found a perfect space along his breastplate, and without meaning to he mimicked the pace of his breath, like he mimicked everything his brother did.

...Like the way Sakura's shorter sturdy arms wrapped tight around his middle, pressing his elbows uncomfortably into his sides, while her voice vibrated through him triggering control, calm and understanding, and suddenly every thing fell into place.

...Like the way muscle and bone curved around his extended arm, and every hitch in Naruto's lungs feeling like a patch of moist, displaced gravitation, sucking him nearer to something like falling but closer to dying.

Part of him expected to see the image of all these things pressing in on him. Instead the reflection showed a dilated eye, murky with shadows and discoloration, a piercing black center devoid of passion, crystallized and callous. When it blinked back at him, he wondered why he recognized it as his own. It looked entirely unfamiliar, in shape and shade, but the depth of emotion brewing just beneath his surface--They could have been the eyes of a stranger.

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The sound of footsteps and the scent of blood pursuing carried no true threat as he saw it.

Either Kabuto had returned to him after having killed Naruto, meaning Sasuke would be forced break his word and kill Kabuto out of sheer spite. Or by some impossibly ironic twist of fate, the idiot manage to kill his most loyal and lethal compatriot, AND, in equal impossibility, tracked him down. He wouldn't rise or more rightly he couldn't. Because he hadn't fully recovered his vision yet he still needed the guide. A sign, some insight to cut through the madness.

But while Sasuke's patience was being tried Naruto's was past its breaking point. He felt the power pooling toward the doorway, like a dragging of air and wind into a tunnel of sheer force. A forgotten expression of contemptuous amusement came to Sasuke's face as quickly as all things old and familiar did. As Naruto neared, he swore venomously, demanding, simultaneously low and guttural, that he get up, off his god damn knees and explain himself, and then trailed lower and further from any human language at all. Sasuke blinked slowly and watched the charm sway. If it hadn't worked then he would likely have seen some demon vision of a blond martyr, wielding up a storm.

Reflected at him, instead of himself in his perhaps fevered vision, he saw the swirling of a single leaf. Still and poignant drifting low in the air, carried on a wind that wasn't real. It was the sort of leaf from a tree found in medicinal gardens he'd seen in his youth. It grew in family gardens throughout and died easily when unattended. He knew it well enough to know the medicine to be in the root and that the leaves looked wilted from first bloom. He'd never seen them outside of Konoha, although that had never occurred to him before the moment the roof beams collapsed.

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Chapter 2
Chapter 4
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